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Payton regrets choking gesture directed at Freeman

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If he could do it all over again, Sean Payton wouldn't have done it all.

The Saints coach acknowledged Wednesday that he regrets having made a choking gesture toward Falcons running back Devonta Freeman when both team clashed back in Week 14.

"Listen, the mistake I made that night was letting my emotions get the best of me," Payton said during a conference call with Falcons reporters, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Payton pulled the stunt during the fourth quarter of his team's 20-17 loss to Atlanta, aiming the gesture toward Freeman following a play that saw the runner wind up on the New Orleans sideline. The coach told reporters after the game that he had no memory of the incident, but reversed course on Wednesday.

"It's the same thing that we talk about with our players all of the time. It wasn't good and I felt like as that game went on, it even affected me in calling plays," Payton said. "I've got to [be] better that way. It was frustrating from some of the officiating. But you learn even when you've been in this thing as long as I have. It's something that you regret and you look back on: 'What are you doing?' So, I think that's the thing that bugged me for the better part of the week."

In the same game, Payton was fined $10,000 by the NFL for improperly entering the playing field during the game. He explained after the loss what led to that decision, saying: "I called a timeout, and then [the referee] asked me again and I said I've already called the timeout. Probably said it with a little bit more vigor than I was supposed to, but I had enough. I have to be smarter than that."

With New Orleans (10-4) locked atop the NFC South with Carolina, Sunday's rematch with Atlanta looms as a doozy. Sticking to coaching his players would be a wise plan for Payton this time around.

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