METAIRIE, La. —Sean Payton calmly took questions Saturday about a lawsuit against the New Orleans Saints, saying he "appreciated" the interest in a case that alleges an attempt to cover up prescription drug thefts at club headquarters.
The Super Bowl champion coach stopped short of responding directly to the allegations, saying now was not the right time to tell his side because civil litigation is pending.
"Certainly, we understand the questions surrounding it, but I'm really not at liberty to answer them," Payton said. "As time goes forward, well know more and more.... There just needs to be the correct steps. When you have a civil suit, those probably become more complicated.... That's the thing that's challenging."
Payton and the Saints are trying to go about the business of football while the lawsuit filed by former security director Geoffrey Santini looms over an offseason that until recently was all about celebrating the franchise's first Super Bowl triumph and the quest to repeat.
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During the past week, the Saints reached a new seven-year deal with All-Pro guard Jahri Evans and a one-year deal with All-Pro safety Darren Sharper. This weekend, the Saints are holding rookie camp for their six draft picks, 14 undrafted free agents and a few dozen players invited for a tryout.
On Saturday, the Saints made Payton available to reporters with no restrictions on what could be asked.
The lawsuit, filed April 30, alleges one "senior staff member" was caught on video stealing the prescription pain killer Vicodin, while another was allowed to take a seemingly excessive amount of Vicodin from team supplies.
People familiar with the lawsuit — who have spoken to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the allegations — say the staff member allegedly stealing the pills was linebackers coach Joe Vitt, and that Payton was the other.
Santini's lawsuit does not implicate Payton in anything illegal.
It contends general manager Mickey Loomis asked Santini to find out who was stealing Vicodin, then tried to keep the matter quiet after Santini, a retired FBI agent, brought back the results of his investigation.
Saints spokesman Greg Bensel has denied the allegations against the club, portraying Santini as a disgruntled former employee trying to orchestrate a shakedown. Bensel has said the team will aggressively defend itself in court.