NFL mum about fining Sean Payton for ‘choke’ gesture

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton yells at a referee during the first half of the game Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton yells at a referee during the first half of the game Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The NFL is keeping quiet about whether Saints coach Sean Payton will be fined for either his conduct or taunting during the game with the Falcons on Thursday night.

An email and a phone call from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution were not immediately returned.

Payton, who was suspended a year during the Bounty-gate scandal, gave Falcons running back Devonta Freeman a ‘choke’ sign during the Falcons’ 20-17 win.

“I don’t remember that,” Payton said after the game.

Freeman remembered it just fine.

“I saw it,” Freeman said. “That man don’t know nothing about choking. He ain’t from where I’m from.

“He’s a good competitor so the competin’ probably came out. But you don’t let that bother you. He don’t know nothing about choking.’ ”

The Falcons were down 17-10 when Payton gave them the choke sign.

The act occurred after Freeman ran out of bounds on a first-and-10 play from the Saints’ 33 for no gain. It could be heard, “You choke, you choke” on the audio of the broadcast.

The Falcons went on to tie the score on Mohamed Sanu’s 8-yard touchdown catch.

Payton apparently was referring to the Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl.

Earlier in the season, Payton was seen yelling at Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter. He also claimed not to remember that incident.

The Falcons are set to play the Saints again Dec. 24 in New Orleans and could face them in the playoffs.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn sidestepped a question about Payton’s behavior.

“On the other sideline, I don’t really have any comment on that one way or another,” Quinn said. “I didn’t see it during the game. So, I didn’t actually get a chance to hear much about it. I know it was a big topic (postgame). But no real comment on that.”

In 2014, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman was fined $7,875 for making a choking gesture toward San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the NFC Championship game.

Quinn was Sherman’s defensive coordinator at the time.

Back in 2009, former Falcons coach Mike Smith was fined $15,000 by the NFL for his role in a sideline fracas involving Washington defensive back DeAngelo Hall.

Smith contended that he was restoring order after Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was hit out of bounds by Washington safety LaRon Landry.

Also, former Falcons director of player performance Jeff Fish was fined $2,500 for his role.

Hall contended he was trying to help out a teammate when he was swarmed by a group of Falcons, including Fish and Smith. He was not fined.

Landry was fined $5,000 for the hit. Washington defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was fined $7,500 for going into the Falcons' bench area.

After the game, Hall was irate and alleged that Fish and Smith made "harmful contact" with him and that Smith cursed at him.

"Every day is a learning experience, " Smith said at the time. "I think you are a lifelong learner. I think you have to handle situations differently when you learn from them."

Smith has contended that all he was doing was defending Ryan. He didn't want to comment on the fairness of the fines.

"I received a letter, and I accept what the league office has said, " he said. "I'm ready to move on."

#Saints HC Sean Payton yelling, "choke" on the sideline