Jonathan Vilma implores Saints to 'continue to hit'

Jonathan Vilma is appealing his season-long suspension for his role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty program, but his seemingly endless legal battle hasn't changed his approach to football.

On the eve of his season debut, Vilma gave a impromptu speech at the team hotel before the Saints' 35-28 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"He told us to hit -- and continue to hit," Saints guard Jahri Evanstold and NFL Network's Jeff Darlington after the game. "It showed a guy that was hungry, ready to put the pads on and hit somebody. He hadn't hit anybody in a long time. I think it got a lot of people in the mood to just go out there and hit."

Vilma asked Darlington to talk to teammates about his speech, which struck a nerve with a locker room that looks up to the linebacker as a leader and believes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has unfairly targeted him.

"It was beautiful," safety Roman Harper said. "(Vilma) is an emotional guy. And who can blame him? He's been through a lot. He's the definition of a fighter. After all these things that have been going on, he's been battling through it.

"Now the rest of us need to do the same."

Vilma didn't start Sunday, but he saw time at weakside linebacker. He finished with no tackles and one quarterback hit. He can play next Sunday against the Denver Broncos before his appeal is heard by Paul Tagliabue on Oct. 30. Vilma's abbreviated season could be over after that.

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