View Photo Gallery: Sean Payton has been suspended for a year for his role in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal.

Sean Payton’s supporters are rising to his defense.

The “Free Sean Payton” shirts are available, but they aren’t likely to change the unprecedented year-long suspension the New Orleans Saints’ coach received Wednesday for Bountygate.

Payton’s quarterback, Drew Brees, reacted a little more cerebrally and tweeted: “Iam speechless. Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. ... I need to hear an explanation for this punishment.”

Payton reportedly was expecting a four-game ban for his role in condoning and covering up the defense’s use of bounties for killer hits in games. “I did talk to him and he’s stunned to say the least,” Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer said in an NFL Network interview. “I think the entire team thought maybe there’d be a four-game suspension, but not a year. I said, ‘Are you okay?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m not okay.’ He is stunned. He’s going to lose about $8 million [in salary]. He is beside himself here.”

Defensive tackle Tom Johnson told the Sun-Herald: “This is not right. We knew there would be some type [of punishment], but not this. We didn’t think anything like this because of the type of man he is. He is our leader and the man we respect. It is going to be hard to move forward without Sean Payton for any amount of time, especially a year.”

Payton’s suspension begins April 1 and his absence will be felt immediately.

“Man, he got a whole year. That is hard to believe. I am shocked and no one on the team was expecting it to be so harsh,” Johnson said. “We don’t know what direction the team will be going in, but we have to rally around each other and support each other. We will make this work until he comes back.”

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