Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
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For once, an NFL news release involving the Saints failed to have a shock factor accompanying it.

Roger Goodell upheld his original suspensions of Saints coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and linebackers coach Joe Vitt, a verdict as expected as they get in this world.

And now the Saints can move on with their 2012 season, albeit a bit lighter at the top.

We know that the appeal bought Payton an extra two weeks, give or take a day or two for travel to and from New York and a brief interlude on the Jimmy Buffett bongos.

We know that the Saints, if they show good behavior during this next year, could get back their second-round pick in 2013.

In other words, the appeal did about as well as it could have been expected to, bearing some future rewards should the franchise get back in good graces with the NFL.

The question now is what direction does the franchise head in without the man who has guided it to its best six-year span ever?

If the past few weeks are any indication, the Saints will likely be fine.

In spite of the vultures circling overhead, the Saints have managed to grab several high-profile free agents, including linebackers Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne.

They've replaced All-Pro left guard Carl Nicks with Pro Bowler Ben Grubbs and brought in a respected run-stopping defensive tackle in Brodrick Bunkley.

And they've re-signed receiver Marques Colston.

All are positive, momentous steps forward regardless of what's happening between the front office and NFL office.

Assuming Drew Brees will be signed come training camp, there will be enough leadership around to overcome this one-year hiccup.

That leadership could eventually involve Bill Parcells, who, around the time of the owner's meetings in late March, was the hot rumor to take over as interim coach for a year. And though he told the New York Daily News that he hasn't heard from or spoken to the Saints in six days, he's still the odds-on favorite to land the job.

In other words, for a team that looked to be on the doorstep of the NFL's version of the death penalty, the future doesn't look nearly as daunting as it seemed nearly two weeks ago.

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