Vitt defends Saints players, but not his own words

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) -- Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt says his six-game suspension stems from the words he used in motivational speeches, and he stresses that players never "crossed the line" by trying to injure an opponent.

Vitt is handling head coach Sean Payton's duties while Payton serves a season-long suspension in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation, which concluded that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams offered improper cash bonuses for hits that hobbled targeted opponents.

Vitt says he is "100 percent on board" with NFL player safety goals. He says he will change the way he talks to players while still urging them to play with the force and effort that reduces opponents' will to compete.

Vitt says the Saints will miss Payton's vision but won't make excuses this season.