Saint Hope Jon Vilma will be ready to play vs. Bucs

METAIRIE, La. — As the Saints began their prepractice stretch Wednesday, receiver Lance Moore hopped up, looked over at linebacker Jonathan Vilma and hollered, "Glad you're back! We missed you!" The entire team applauded.

"Hello!" Vilma responded with a smile, still seated on the field, one leg pulled over another.

The former University of Miami standout then did something he had yet to do in 2012: practice.

And it was obvious the Saints were pulling for him to be ready to play Sunday at the Bucs, which might be his only chance to get back on the field this season if his bounty suspension, currently on appeal, goes back into effect in a week or so.

"Vilma continues to fight for what's right and a fair process, which I think is extremely justified," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "The fact that he was out there practicing (Wednesday), it just kind of puts a smile on everybody's face knowing what he's been through and having the opportunity to get him back."
Vilma did not work with the first team but also did not wear any kind of brace or sleeve on his surgically repaired left knee.

"He's back," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "He's doing a bunch of extra stuff, too, to make sure he's ready as far as conditioning and things like that. But he's ready to play. I know he's been champing at the bit and this is his opportunity this week and I know he'll be ready."

Vilma had several offseason procedures done on his knee.

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