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Payton could be coaching free agent in '13

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Dismissing speculation that he might be interested in Sean Payton, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he has "a lot of faith" in coach Jason Garrett and has no idea if the suspended New Orleans Saints coach might be available next season.

Payton was suspended for the season by the NFL for his role in the bounty scandal. The league has taken issue with a clause in the contract extension he agreed to more than a year ago, which was to have kept him in New Orleans through 2015.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, speaking to reporters before the Cowboys lost to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night, said he does not know if Payton might become a coaching free agent after the season.

"The one contract that they sent in to us ... we told them what the issue was," Goodell said. "Now it's up to the team and Sean Payton. So until I get something back, it's up to them."

Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said Monday the team had no comment. Payton's agent, Don Yee, did not return a message.

Jones was asked about the possibility of Payton coaching the Cowboys if he's available.

"I have no idea," the Cowboys owner said. "I have no understanding about anything to do with his or the Saints' business or their contracts. I don't have any - that was news to me."

Jones insisted that he hasn't given up on Garrett, who has a record of 16-16 over three seasons and has yet to lead the Cowboys to the playoffs.

"I have a lot of faith in Jason," Jones said. "Jason's future is ahead of him. I know how hard he works. I like his philosophy, so I've got a lot of confidence, a lot of faith. One of the brightest spots I see is our head coaching and our coaching in the future."

According to ESPN, the league objected to Payton being allowed to nix the deal if general manager Mickey Loomis was fired, suspended or left the organization for any reason. Loomis received an eight-game suspension for his involvement in the bounty case and is eligible to return after Monday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The report on Payton's contract immediately led to speculation that Payton could be bound for Dallas next season. The Cowboys (3-5) have been a major disappointment, with a 19-13 loss to the Falcons only turning up the heat on Garrett.

Payton was an assistant head coach with the Cowboys before he took over the Saints in 2006. He has a 67-37 record, including four playoff appearances and New Orleans' first Super Bowl championship, but he kept alive speculation that he might someday return to Dallas by keeping a home in that city.

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