Jonathan Vilma

Jonathan Vilma, Vinny Testaverde to coaching search

The University of Miami has taken the next step towards a new coach after firing Al Golden by creating a search committee. Athletic director Blake James announced the search committee members in a press release on Monday, which includes two former Canes in ex-linebacker Jonathan Vilma and Heisman winning quarterback Vinny Testaverde.

Miami will retain search firm Korn Ferry to assist in the process, along with a six-person committee made up of Board of Trustee members, former players and the athletics staffers.

Korn Ferry is among the most used search firms in the country and has been part of many coaching searches, including Texas' hiring of Charlie Strong in 2014.
The six-person committee, which will provide thoughts and input on the candidates, includes Board of Trustees members Hilarie Bass, David Epstein and Steve Saiontz; Deputy Director of Athletics Jennifer Strawley along with Vilma and Testaverde.

"We are well underway in our search process," said James, "and, as expected, there is already a tremendous amount of interest in The U. Additionally, we are reaching out to a number of UM constituencies to engage in dialogue and to hear their thoughts and vision. We will work diligently to find a great fit for Miami and I want to thank in advance the members of the advisory committee for their dedication to our University.”

Miami, being a private university, does not release salaries to public records, but the Hurricanes will reportedly have a budget of around $3 million to find a new head coach.

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Vilma: Ex-Saints coach Gregg Williams deserves ‘dirty’ reputation

Former New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma told SI’s Pro Football Now that St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, a former Saints assistant coach, deserves his “dirty” reputation.

Rams cornerback Lamarcus Joyner knocked Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater out of Sunday’s game with a hit in the fourth quarter, leaving him on the ground face down. Bridgewater sustained a concussion on the play, but is expected to play in Week 10.

After the game, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer did not say the hit was intentional, but brought up Williams' reputation as an aggressive defensive coach.

“I do know that there’s a history there with their defensive coordinator,” Zimmer said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

Williams served as the defensive coordinator for the Saints from 2009 to 2011, and played a role in the bounty scandal that allegedly paid Saints players bonuses for targeting opponents and knocking them out of games. Vilma played under Williams for those three seasons.

“I do think he deserves the reputation and I’m speaking objectively because I played for him for three years,” Vilma said. “And frankly, he’s been in the league for over 20 years. The things that he practices, he coaches and preaches is an old-school mentality.”

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Jonathan Vilma offers advice to Tom Brady

Former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was initially suspended an entire season before successfully fighting to have his ban in the NFL's bounty probe overturned, offered some advice to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as he confronts a similar challenge.

"I'd tell Brady to fight the emotion of defending himself publicly, lawyer up and begin to devise a gameplan to beat the NFL through the [court] system," Vilma wrote in a text message.

Vilma hired his own lawyer -- Peter Ginsberg -- exhausted the league's system of appeals and took the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell to federal court. That provided the leverage necessary for Goodell to appoint former commissioner Paul Tagliabue as a neutral arbitrator.

Tagliabue threw out "all discipline" Goodell had imposed on Vilma and defensive end Will Smith for taking part in a Saints program that rewarded injurious hits. Tagliabue did the same for two players who by then were no longer with the club, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove.

Vilma, suspended by Goodell for the entire season, and Smith, suspended four games, played while their appeals were pending. Fujita, who was facing a one-game suspension, was on injured reserve. Hargrove's suspension initially stood at eight games but was reduced to seven with credit for his first five games missed as a free agent, essentially reducing the ban he'd been facing to two games.

Vilma doubts the protocols required by the collective bargaining agreement would allow Brady to prevail in his expected appeal to the league for his role in the deflating of footballs. Brady has until 5 p.m. Thursday to file his appeal. A source said he has involved the NFL Players Association for the first time and the union will assume the lead in defending Brady.

The Saints and Patriots were punished not only for violations of league rules but also for failing to cooperate with the NFL investigations into wrongdoing and concealing the illegal activity.

But while Goodell led the investigation into the Saints' scandal and determined punishment, the league hired Ted Wells to investigate the Patriots and Brady, and Goodell deferred to league executive Troy Vincent to determine the punishment. Vilma believes those differences will increase the challenge for Brady, whose appeal will be heard by Goodell or his designee, likely Harold Henderson.

"We based our argument off of Goodell being the face of the BountyGate witchhunt," Vilma said in the text message. "He hasn't done that this time around. I don't know how he accuses Goodell of being too bias to be [the] arbitrator. I was able to prove he was biased and then let all the facts start coming out in a neutral setting."

Vilma said it was difficult to compartmentalize preparing for a game each week while simultaneously being fully involved in challenging the league's discipline. It likely would be even harder for a quarterback like Brady, considering his responsibilities.

"Just wears on you because no matter what you do on the field, the only questions he'll receive are about Deflategate," Vilma said.

One other interesting parallel: Agent Don Yee, who represents Brady, also represented Saints coach Sean Payton. He remains the only head coach in NFL history to be suspended, missing an entire season.

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proCane Pro Day Recap

In front of reps from all 32 NFL teams, the unquestioned star was receiver Phillip Dorsett. He blazed his way to an unofficial 4.25-second 40-yard dash after running an already-excellent 4.33 at the NFL combine in February. He could have settled on that time and simply performed pass-catching drills for NFL scouts, but Dorsett wanted to put on a show.

“It was just me and my competitive spirit just coming out here and doing everything,” Dorsett said. “Because I know everybody wants to see it. Everybody likes to see a guy go out and compete and do everything.”

Dorsett, who measured in at 5-foot-10 and 184 pounds, said he improved his vertical to 38 inches (he leaped 37 at the combine) and bench-pressed 225 pounds 13 times (he did not lift at the combine).

For me, the star of the day was Phillip Dorsett,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “A kid who didn’t have to do anything because he performed so well at the combine. What did he do today? Comes out runs a 4.25, 4.26, jumps 38 inches, 10-9 broad [jump], and then looked fantastic catching the football and getting in and out of breaks. I thought Phillip Dorsett had an outstanding day.”

Dorsett will work out for the Dolphins, Panthers and Falcons. What if the hometown chose him?

“Being a Hurricane and I always was a fan of the Dolphins, too,” said Dorsett, from Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas. “It would be great. It would be a dream come true,” he said.

* Linebacker Denzel Perryman suffered a pulled right hamstring and scratched on his second attempt at running the 40-yard dash. UM did not release official testing results to the media, but according to a group of scouts that got together and compared times, Perryman’s first heat in the 40 was a 4.67 — better than the 4.78 he ran in Indianapolis.

He did not perform in the shuttle, 3-cone and positional drills. He said not being able to finish was “real disappointing, but I think a lot of teams just wanted to see what I could run. I feel I accomplished that today. I answered a lot of questions.”

He said he measured in at 5-11 and 239 pounds and put up 30 reps of 225 pounds. He increased his vertical from 32 (combine) to 33 inches.

Perryman watched film with the Lions hours before pro day began and has three NFL team visits lined up: he will meet with the Dolphins next Thursday, the Falcons on April 12 and the Panthers on April 16. Along with Clive Walford and Dorsett, he ate dinner with Saints brass Tuesday night at Fleming’s Steakhouse in Coral Gables. Perryman said he ate shrimp and scallops (Rob Ryan had a steak, if you were wondering).

* Running back Duke Johnson ran a 4.47 twice, which was a much better result than his combine time (4.54). He also “caught the ball naturally,” according to Mayock.

Why run the 40 again? “I wanted to do it for myself, because I know I can do better, and I know I train too hard to run what I ran at the combine,” he said, adding that his “game speed speaks for itself. … If you run 4.2, 4.3 but you don’t play it, it really doesn’t make a difference.”

Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey agreed.

“When we watch guys play with helmets and shoulder pads, those are the important things,” he said. “Those guys that play fast and also run fast, that’s great. The importance is the speed they play at.” The 40 time is “a measurement — you always judge it against how they play.”

Johnson, who measured in at 5-9 and 203 pounds, said he did 18 reps of 225. He did not lift at the NFL combine.

Tight end Clive Walford did not run because he suffered a hamstring pull last week. Walford (6-4, 250) said he would meet with the Steelers after pro day and the Falcons and Packers in the coming days. He said he has talked to a laundry list of teams, including the Dolphins, Saints, Falcons, Packers, Broncos, Chargers, 49ers, Ravens, Chiefs and Buccaneers.

Walford, a Glades Central grad and South Bay native, on the hometown team: “I talked to them. I wouldn’t say a lot, but I saw that move that they made this offseason. Shout-out to the Dolphins.” He’s talking, of course, about the Fins adding Ndamukong Suh.

Is UM’s tight end tradition helping his draft stock? “We produce great tight ends,” he said. “Look at the history. We’ve got great ones to come. I feel I kept up that legacy. Hopefully the young ones do as well.

* Offensive tackle Ereck Flowers, a projected first-rounder, did not perform lifting drills – he was the top overall bench-presser at the NFL combine, with 37 reps of 225 – but did everything else. Flowers did not speak to the media (he rarely does).

Mayock was very high on Flowers, Jon Feliciano and Shane McDermott‘s performances.

“I counted eight to 10 offensive line coaches, obviously here to see mostly Ereck Flowers, who I think is going to be a first-round draft pick,” he said. “But Feliciano could get drafted. Shane McDermott could get drafted. I thought it was a great day for that whole group of players.”

* Defensive end Anthony Chickillo, who looked even lighter than he did at the combine (when he measured 6-3, 267), looked like a much more explosive player than he was as a 280-pound strong-side defensive end at UM. “Very twitchy” was Walford’s assessment. “Quick. Fast.”

* Quarterbacks Ryan Williams and Jake Heaps threw a variety of routes for scouts. Williams said he checked in at 6-4 and change and 215 pounds, and ran a 4.84 in the 40. Before tearing his ACL last April 4 – 362 days ago – he said he ran in the 5-second range. He definitely looked a lot faster than before. He has several meetings scheduled, but has not worked out with an NFL team.

“I’m always positive,” Williams said. “Regardless if I get drafted or not I’m still going to get a chance somewhere so I’m not really worried about the draft.”

* Cornerback Ladarius Gunter ran a solid 4.56 time in the 40 and looked very rangy in coverage drills.  He’s projected as a mid-round pick.

* Linebacker Thurston Armbrister showed good speed and agility, though he struggled to catch interceptions in drills. Would bet he gets a shot somewhere.

* Defensive tackle Olsen Pierre ran a 5.15 in the 40.

* If you saw my Twitter feed, you’ll get a roll of NFL personnel I spotted, but among the notables were a large contingent of Dolphins personnel (GM Dennis Hickey, VP Mike Tannenbaum, head coach Joe Philbin, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, running backs coach Jeff Nixon, special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi), Jets head coach Todd Bowles, Saints head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. NFL Network said seven GMs attended, including Hickey. The others: Mickey Loomis (Saints), Mike Maccagnan (Jets), Kevin Colbert (Steelers), Doug Whaley (Bills), Steve Keim (Arizona), Ruston Webster (Tennessee) and Floyd Reese (Giants). Former Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland, now a college scout with New Orleans, was also there.

* Former Hurricanes who attended included Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James, Demarcus Van Dyke, Jacory Harris, Lamar Miller and Tommy Streeter. A slew of players from the 2012 and 2013 teams were there. Jonathan Vilma was also in attendance, working for NBC Sports along with former Dolphins great Jason Taylor. NFL Network had a five-person crew and analyst Mike Mayock interviewed several UM players and coach Al Golden, who did not speak to other media.

* Former Hurricanes running back Damien Berry, a Glades Central grad who won a Super Bowl with Baltimore in 2012, was the oldest of several pre-2014 Hurricanes who worked out (linebacker Tyrone Cornelius and defensive end Shayon Green, both from the 2013 team, also performed).  “I’m still young, 26 years old. I think it’s time to give it another shot,” said Berry, who last played for UM in 2010 and now lives in Boca Raton. Berry, 5-11 and 230 pounds, he said he ran a 4.7 in the 40.

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Vilma, Taylor headline latest University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame class

Ten former Hurricanes will be inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2015, the school announced Monday.

Six -- Rusty Medearis (1990-92, '94), Winston Moss (1983-86), Kevin Patrick (1990-93), Sean Taylor (2001-03), Jonathan Vilma (2000-03) and Rob Chudzinsk (1986-90) -- played for the football program. Chudzinski also coached from 1996-03.

Medearis was a Freshman All-American in 1990 and a defensive lineman for the 1991 national title team. He recorded 22 sacks in his first two seasons before sustaining an injury in 1992 that kept him out until 1994.

Moss, currently the associate head coach of the Green Bay Packers, was on the 1983 national championship squad. Prior to a 10-year NFL career, he finished fourth in total tackles and second in solo tackles and tackles for a loss in 1986 despite missing two games.

A First-Team All-American in 1993, Patrick was also named Big East Defensive Player of the Year as a lineman. In his career, he recorded 23 sacks -- fifth in program history. Patrick serves as the defensive line coach at the University of North Texas.

Taylor was a consensus First-Team All-American and the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2003 as well as a finalist for the Thorpe Award given to the nation's top safety. Taylor, who will be honored posthumously, ranks second in career picks returned for a score (three), second in return yards (306) and fifth in total interceptions (14). He was on the 2001 national championship team.

Vilma, an All-American in 2003, manned the middle linebacker position for two straight national title games. He led the Hurricanes in total tackles from 2001-03. His 377 tackles rank seventh in program history. Vilma, a three-time Pro Bowler, was a two-time Academic All-American and three-time All-Big East Academic Team in college.

Chudzinski began as the tight ends coach in 1996 and worked his way up to offensive coordinator by 2001. He developed All-American tight ends Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow Jr. His schemes set UM records for most points (527), total yards (6,074) and rushing touchdowns (33) during the 2001 campaign. As a player, he won a pair of titles in 1987 and 1989.

Other athletes in the Class of 2015 include Lauryn Williams, who has medaled in both the winter and summer Olympics. Pitcher Alex Fernandez, a member of the Florida Marlins' 1997 World Series team, was an All-American as a freshman. Women's basketball player Kym Hope still ranks in the top 10 for career scoring, free-throw percentage, field-goal percentage, rebounds and blocks. Diver Chris Mantilla, an 11-time All-American, captured the 3-meter title at the 1996 NCAA Championships.

This year's class will be introduced at halftime of Saturday's Cincinnati-Miami football game. Inductees will be honored at the 47th Annual Induction Banquet in April 2015.

"This is an impressive class that reflects the highest level of athletic talent representative of The U," K.C. Jones, president of the UMSHoF and member of the 2008 class, said in a statement. "We look forward to introducing the class at the upcoming Cincinnati game and hosting our induction ceremony at the banquet in the spring."

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Jon Vilma Would Have Loved To Have Been Called By Dolphins

Ex-Hurricane Jonathan Vilma, 32, would have loved a call from the Dolphins amid their linebacker injuries last week, but Miami wasn’t interested.

But the Dolphins have four Hurricanes under contract (tied with UF for the most on the team), including practice squad receiver Tommy Streeter.

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Jonathan Vilma rips Roger Goodell over handling of Ray Rice case

This isn't exactly shocking information, but former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is not happy with the way Roger Goodell has handled the Ray Rice domestic violence case.

Goodell, you'll recall, originally suspended Vilma, for the 2012 season for his role in "Bountygate." After a judge overturned that suspension, Goodell tried to suspend Vilma and other Saints once again. The group appealed the decision, which led to Goodell asking former commissioner Paul Tagliabue to review the NFL's bounty investigation. Tagliabue did and he overturned the second round of suspensions. Vilma ended up playing in 11 games that season.

However, the bad blood with Goodell is still there.

After the commissioner's interview with CBS News aired Wednesday morning, Vilma was not buying Goodell's assertion that he asked for, but was not given, the disturbing video of Rice punching his now-wife in the casino elevator.

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Jonathan Vilma Rips Former Bucs O-Line

Former Saints Pro Bowl linebacker Jonathan Vilma (2008-2013) looked into a national TV camera the other day and stomped on the reputations of Donald Penn, Davin Joseph, Jeremy Zuttah, Demar Dotson and other former Bucs offensive linemen.

Listening to Vilma, it’s a wonder Tampa Bay won any football games.

Speaking on  NBC Sports Network, Vilma was asked about facing the old Bucs offensive line versus the current bunch.

“You know, they were definitely at the bottom of the pack as far as O-lines that we faced. We looked at them, we said, ‘Athletically, they weren’t there. They’re communication wasn’t there. The leadership wasn’t there,’” Vilma said.

“We would do simple stunts, move a defensive linemen, cross games, they didn’t ‘have an answer to it. So finally you get a guy like [Logan] Mankins with the ability, with the knowledge, with the veteran leadership he should bring, and they should shore up some of those issues.”

Man, talk about kicking a unit in the balls. Vilma laid some low blows there.

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Jonathan Vilma on Swearinger Hit: 'The Hit Was Perfectly Clean, Perfectly Legal'

Houston Texans safety D.J. Swearinger's concussion-inducing hit on Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker has become a controversial topic.

Was Swearinger's hit illegal? Did Peyton Manning make a mistake by giving him an earful? How hard is it for a defensive player to adjust to the NFL's tackling rules?

Watch as Adam Lefkoe goes in-depth with Jonathan Vilma and Bleacher Report NFL Analyst Chris Simms in the video above. 

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Jonathan Vilma Would Welcome Richie Incognito in Locker Room 'With Open Arms'

Richie Incognito has been cleared by the NFL, per Marc Sessler of, and visited the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday.

Would Incognito be welcomed back into an NFL locker room? 

Watch as Adam Lefkoe goes in-depth with free-agent linebacker Jonathan Vilma and Bleacher Report NFL Analyst Chris Simms in the video above.

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Jonathan Vilma Works Out For Falcons, Doesn't Sign

When linebacker Sean Weatherspoon went down recently while working out with the Atlanta Falcons, the team was left with a huge problem on their hands. Not only did they lose a key part of their defense, but they lost him so close to the season beginning.

Therefore, they had to look outside of the organization for a potential replacement, and on Wednesday, they brought in former New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma for a workout.

Some thought that the not long after the workout, the Falcons might have their man in Vilma, and a contract would be immediately signed.

According to Fox Sports’ Mike Garafolo, however, that won’t be the case as he won’t be inking a deal with the team at the moment. But, that doesn’t rule out a potential signing right before the season gets underway.

Given the amount of experience that Vilma has under his belt, this really isn’t all that big of a deal. The team still has ample time over the summer to explore the options for Weatherspoon, and then at that point they could see if investing in Vilma for the year would be a smart idea.

Plus, considering the fact that Vilma himself spent a good portion of last season on the injured reserve, it would be a risky investment to begin with.

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Atlanta Falcons Interested In Jon Vilma?

The Atlanta Falcons are looking to replace the hole created when they lost Sean Weatherspoon earlier in the week, and they may be looking to bring in one of the biggest names on the free agency market. Former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma may be getting a good, hard look from the Falcons brass, according to Ian Rapoport of and NFL Network.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday on NFL Total Access that the Falcons are taking a hard look at former New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma as a potential replacement for Weatherspoon, via sources close to the Falcons situation.

Vilma, 32, remains a free agent after the Saints opted not to re-sign the 10-year veteran following a successful and, at times, controversial six-year stay in NOLA. If Vilma’s primary medicals check out, the Falcons plan to bring the three-time Pro Bowler in for a visit.

Vilma was a solid player, if not for the headlines he created in New Orleans. Most notably, Vilma was considered one of the central figures in the bounty scandal that led to his suspension (which was appealed and overturned).

Paired with a knee surgery that kept him out of the majority of the 2013 season, Vilma was ultimately cut by the Saints in February. Since being released he’s been linked to multiple places, but the Falcons seem intent on giving Vilma at least a chance.

The Hawks are also looking at Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow as internal options as well.

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Cowboys Considering Brian Urlacher, Jonathan Vilma To Replace Sean Lee

The injury to middle linebacker Sean Lee has left a gaping hole in the middle of the Dallas Cowboys defense, and the team is considering all of its options to find a replacement.

Two names that have surfaced in the team’s attempt to find a replacement include Brian Urlacher and Jonathan Vilma, ESPN’s Ed Werder reported.

Cowboys evaluating all options for replacing LB Sean Lee, including vets like Brian Urlacher and Jon Vilma. Will likely be 2-player platoon
— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) June 2, 2014

Urlacher, 36, spent last year in the broadcast booth instead of on the football field. At this time last year, Urlacher retired from the NFL after 13 seasons manning the middle of the Chicago Bears’ defense.

It’s unknown whether Urlacher has an interest in returning to football and leaving his comfortable seat with FOX, or if he’s in game shape. One positive about Urlacher is that he’s seasoned in defensive coordinator’s Rod Marinelli’s scheme.

Vilma, 32, missed the 2013 season due to a lingering knee injury. The New Orleans Saints let the veteran backer walk in  free agency, but last week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Vilma is now “healthy and ready” to return to action.

If Dallas is in market for a LB, one who is recovered from knee issues is former Saint Jonathan Vilma. Now said to be healthy and ready.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 27, 2014

Vilma reached out to the Miami Dolphins, his hometown team, but they showed no interest, according to the Miami Herald. The Dolphins also passed on two other former Hurricanes – Jon Beason and Darryl Sharpton – in free agency over the offseason. Vilma has received little to no interest on the open market.

When Lee tore his ACL during Cowboys OTAs last week, it was presumed Anthony Hitchens, a fourth-round draft pick out of Iowa, would have the first crack at earning the starting job. But Werder is suggesting the team wants a two-player platoon at middle linebacker.

Based on age, it seems like Vilma is the more probable fit. He’s younger and has shown an interest in playing this season.

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Dolphins pass on Jonathan Vilma

The representation for free agent LB Jonathan Vilma recently reached out to the Dolphins, but the team "showed no interest."

Vilma is 32 now, and hasn't been an effective player in several seasons. The Fins were smart to pass. Vilma's left knee has been problematic since 2011, and ended his 2013 campaign after just one appearance with the Saints.

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Cowboys might be intersted in Jonathan Vilma

The Dallas Cowboys are looking at another tough start to this upcoming season as they may be without star linebacker Sean Lee for even more time following his latest injury at Cowboys OTAs. Lee may be lost for the season and if not the season, a large portion of it with a knee injury and the Cowboys are bracing for the worst.

Adam Schefter doesn’t have an update on Lee’s status just yet but he does have some input on who they might target should Lee be lost as is expected. According to Schefter, former New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is healthy and ready to play, which means he could be an option for the Cowboys in the immediate future.

Of course, this is all assuming that the Cowboys lose Lee which is an absolute worst case scenario for them. Vilma isn’t a bad pick up though and may have even been an alright veteran signing even if Lee hadn’t suffered this knee injury.

Vilma was a leader with the Saints and knows what a defense needs to get fired up. He may have lost a step with age, but he’ll likely be walking more steps on two legs than Sean Lee will this season which by default makes him a better option. It’s just a perk that he happens to be one of the better defensive veterans floating around in free agency still.

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Free-agent spotlight: LB Jonathan Vilma

The New Orleans Saints have 13 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on March 11, plus the three players they released last month. Here’s a breakdown on linebacker Jonathan Vilma:

Position: ILB
Age: 31
Height: 6-1
Weight: 230

Scouting report: In his prime, Vilma was one of the top defensive players in the NFL, earning Pro Bowl invites in 2005, 2009 and 2010. But he has been plagued by a nagging knee injury for the last three years and appeared in only one game last season. The Saints announced last month that they plan to part ways with him when he becomes a free agent.

A former first-round draft pick and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2004, Vilma arrived in New Orleans via trade in 2008. He immediately took over as the "quarterback" of the Saints' defense as a captain and signal caller at middle linebacker. Coaches have always raved about what a smart player Vilma is -- which was especially on display when he matched audibles with Peyton Manning in the Saints' 2010 Super Bowl victory.

Vilma is a bit on the small side for an inside linebacker, but he always made up for it with great athleticism and instincts when healthy. He had eight sacks, six interceptions and five forced fumbles during six years in New Orleans. For his career, he has 871 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 12 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.

Projection: Vilma has said he would like to keep playing, and he has had ample time to recover from his latest clean-up surgery last summer. But the combination of his age and his injury history puts his future in jeopardy.

I don't see him as an every-down starter at this stage. But I could see a team bringing Vilma in to vie for a rotational role. His experience and leadership will boost his appeal.

Obviously Vilma was a central figure in the Saints' infamous bounty scandal -- originally being suspended for a year before the suspension was vacated on appeal. But I don’t think that would turn teams off. On the contrary, I think his character would be considered a plus, based on how coaches have always raved about Vilma.

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Jonathan Vilma Released

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WAFB) - The New Orleans Saints announced Wednesday that the team has terminated the contracts of Jabari Greer (CB), Roman Harper (S) and Will Smith (DE/OLB) and that they will not re-sign Jonathan Vilma (LB).

"I have coached and been around a lot of great players and I put these four guys right there at the top," said Saints Head Coach Sean Payton. "Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan all represent and epitomize what we look for in our players. These are disciplined, smart, tough and team-oriented individuals. They all played an important role in helping this team and this city win its first Super Bowl and they have all enjoyed multiple playoff appearances and wins."

The Saints are estimated to be in the range of $12-15 million over the cap and will need more space to re-sign or use the franchise tag on tight end Jimmy Graham.

"These were not easy decisions to make," said Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis. "Since we acquired them, Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan have all been excellent players on the field for us. Each of them were integral parts in turning this program around and winning a Super Bowl. They were a great example to our players as team leaders in the locker room as well. Will and Roman were two of the better draft picks we have made. Jonathan Vilma has been one of our best trades ever and Jabari Greer has been one of our best free agent signings. These are the kinds of players and people you hope to acquire. However, a new NFL year is about to begin and, with the start of free agency in March, these difficult moves allow us to position our team under the salary cap to move forward for 2014."

The Saints drafted Smith out of Ohio State in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft. He ended his Saints career with 363 tackles (255 solo), 67.5 sacks, two interceptions, 24 passes defensed, 19 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. Smith would have earned $11.55 million in the final year of his contract.
Harper was drafted by the Saints in 2006 out of Alabama. With New Orleans he made 743 tackles, had 17 sacks, seven interceptions and 13 forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Harper would have earned $3.15 million this season.

Greer was signed by the Saints in 2009 after playing with Buffalo for five season. Greer had nine interceptions (two for touchdowns), 290 tackles, 68 passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In 2013, Greer's season ended after suffering a knee injury vs. San Francisco on November 17.

Vilma was acquired by the Saints in a trade in the 2008 with the New York Jets. With the Saints Vilma recorded 530 tackles (331 solo), eight sacks, six interceptions, 27 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.

"I would like to thank Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan for their contributions on and off the field for the New Orleans Saints over the past several years," said Saints owner Tom Benson. "All four of them played important roles in the success of our club and were great players and teammates. In addition, all of them made a significant impact in our community, especially with our youth and helping serve the less fortunate. On behalf of our organization and our fans, we appreciate everything that they have done for us and wish them continued success."

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'Highly likely' Saints let ILB Jon Vilma walk

Profootballtalk reports it's "highly likely" the Saints let ILB Jonathan Vilma walk in free agency.

Suspension and injury have limited Vilma to just 12 total games over the past two seasons. Two months shy of his 32nd birthday, Vilma has been playing through knee issues since 2011. He made only one appearance in 2013 before landing on injured reserve. Even if he can prove he's healthy, Vilma will have trouble tracking down guaranteed money on the open market. He won't be a starter in 2014.

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Jonathan Vilma apologizes for recent remarks about openly gay players

Two weeks ago, in the run-up to Super Bowl North Jersey, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma—who spent four seasons with the Jets after they took him with the 12th pick of the 2004 draft—told the NFL Network he didn't think an openly gay NFL player would be accepted in the locker room.

Monday, just one day after Missouri defensive end Michael Sam became the first openly gay draft prospect, Vilma walked it all back in an interview with CNN.
Here's what Vilma initially told the NFL Network's Andrea Kremer, per

"I think that he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted. I don't want people to just naturally assume, like, 'Oh, we're all homophobic.' That's really not the case. Imagine if he's the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me.

"How am I supposed to respond?"

But Monday night on CNN's AC360, Vilma clarified what he was trying to say. More from

"It was a poor illustration of the example I was trying to give on the context, so I do apologize for that I was trying to explain that whenever you have change into something that's been set in stone for so long, something that's been going for so long, that change always comes with a little resistance.

"Some people grew up with or without the acceptance of gays within their families. You have a lot of different elements within the locker room that you just don't see right now. Me being on the inside for 10 years, inside the locker room, I've been around that.

"And it's not to say that the locker rooms are bad, it's to say that there are going to be people that accept it willingly as soon as he comes in, welcome him with open arms, and then unfortunately, there will be some, I'm about 99 percent sure the minority, will say, well, they're not comfortable with that yet, they don't know how to respond to that. That's just what's going to happen in the first whatever, the first year, two years. When have more players like Michael Sam coming out and saying that they're gay, the transition will be a lot smoother."

As also noted, Vilma had once tweeted in 2011 that "[g]rown men should NOT hav female tendencies. Period." He later crafted a half-hearted explanation to say he wasn't talking about gay men.

Vilma's clarification on AC360 was far more thoughtful.

He went on to say cite his hypothetical shower scenario as something he's never experienced before, only to add this about showering with an openly gay teammate: "I don't see anything wrong with it. You have other players that may, you have other players that may not." Vilma also said he would be "A-OK with" having a gay teammate, noting that "it doesn't bother me at all."

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Jonathan Vilma says he would be 'A-OK' with an openly gay teammate

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma ignited some controversy for his remarks to the NFL Network two weeks ago when he told Andrea Kremer he didn't think an openly gay teammate would be accepted in the locker room.

The topic came back up this week after NFL draft prospect Michael Sam's admission that he was gay. He is the first prospective player in NFL history to publicly come out and also the first in the other three major U.S. men's sports, baseball, basketball and hockey.

Sam, a former Missouri defensive lineman and the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the year, told multiple news outlets Sunday he is an "openly proud gay man."

Vilma, who made the comments before Sam's announcement, told the NFL Network:

"I think that he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted," Vilma told NFL Network. "I don't want people to just naturally assume, like, 'Oh, we're all homophobic.' That's really not the case. Imagine if he's the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me.

"How am I supposed to respond?"

Sam's admission has raised the question again as to whether the NFL is ready for its first openly gay player. Vilma went on "AC360" on Monday night to talk about the issue and clarify his initial comments, admitting that they were poorly worded.

"It was a poor illustration of the example I was trying to give on the context, so I do apologize for that," Vilma said. "I was trying to explain that whenever you have change into something that's been set in stone for so long, something that's been going for so long, that change always comes with a little resistance."

Vilma said the "resistance" comes with the dynamics of having 53 different men in the locker room, many who come from different backgrounds. 

"You have people that can be more outgoing, more open-minded. You have people that are a little more close-minded," Vilma said. "Some people grew up with or without the acceptance of gays within their families. You have a lot of different elements within the locker room that you just don't see right now. Me being on the inside for 10 years, inside the locker room, I've been around that.

"And it's not to say that the locker rooms are bad, it's to say that there are going to be people that accept it willingly as soon as he comes in, welcome him with open arms, and then unfortunately, there will be some, I'm about 99 percent sure the minority, will say, well, they're not comfortable with that yet, they don't know how to respond to that. That's just what's going to happen in the first whatever, the first year, two years. When have more players like Michael Sam coming out and saying that they're gay, the transition will be a lot smoother."

Vilma clarified his comment about showering with an openly gay teammate and said he didn't have any concerns about it. He said his comment to the NFL Network was another poor example he was trying to make.

"Again, the point I was trying to make or the context I was trying to take it in is that I've never been put in that situation, no player in the NFL has been put in that situation, so it's not as simple as anyone saying, well, there's nothing wrong with it," he said. "I don't see anything wrong with it. You have other players that may, you have other players that may not. 

"I don't know and the players don't know because it's the first time that you have a Michael Sam, who will by all accounts be drafted, openly gay, come into a locker room. No one in the NFL in the past however many years has experienced this before so this is all new for everybody, this is new territory."

Vilma has experienced heavy criticism for other comments, including tweets he made during the 2011 season. At the time, he said on Twitter that "Grown men should NOT hav female tendencies. Period."

A woman responded to Vilma on Twitter with, "that's a little sexist/homophobic, don't you think? #thinkbeforeyoutweet."

He responded: "hey....SHUTUP."

Vilma later tweeted, "So of course the homosexual men get sensitive to my tweet and respond all ticked off. RELAX I was not referring to u guys."

Vilma had changed his tune by Monday night.

"As long as he can play football, I'm A-OK with it," he said Monday. "It doesn't bother me at all."

What would Vilma, a former defensive captain who will become a free agent March 11, say to his teammates if Sam was drafted by the Saints?

"There's really nothing to say," he said. "The first thing that matters is, can he play football?"

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Jonathan Vilma is afraid a gay teammate will look at him

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma against demonstrated what a close-minded jerk he is in an interview with Andrea Kramer for NFL Network on the locker room that aired Super Bowl Sunday. When asked about having a gay teammate, he said he doesn't want one:

"I think he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted. I don't want people to just naturally assume, oh, we're all homophobic. That's really not the case. Imagine if he's the guy next to me, and you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me, how am I supposed to respond?"

Ummmm -- how about you respond the same way you respond when any man glances at you in the shower? You just keep shootin' the shit. He doesn't give a crap about your manhood, especially when it's attached to someone with asshole tendencies.

Or how about you make a joke of it:
• "No, you can't have none of this."
• "I'm so telling your boyfriend you stole a peek."
• "Sorry, you're not my type."

Vilma goes the other direction, talking about how that player wouldn't be accepted and how uncomfortable he'd feel. How about how uncomfortable that gay teammate -- which you've likely had in the last two to three years -- feels being around you!

All this from the man who once tweeted: "Grown men should NOT have female tendencies. Period."

There is some serious insecurity going on in Vilma's head. He's played with gay teammates, he just doesn't know it. Vilma's so caught up in this macho nonsense that just being naked in the room with a gay man creeps him out. It certainly makes me think all the accusations about his involvement with the bounty incident were 100% true -- typical of that kind of guy.

Luckily, Vilma's attitude is in the distinct minority in the NFL. Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ike Taylor, on the other hand, sees the issue for what it is:

"Regardless of who it is, straight or gay," Taylor said, "if he's on this team, he's a teammate of mine."

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Jonathan Vilma Shares His Experience Of Defeating Manning In 2010

Jonathan Vilma, who was the Saints linebacker in Super Bowl XLIV, shares his thoughts and secrets of how to go about beating Peyton Manning, as his Saints did in 2010.

“In my opinion, you have to study him,” Vilma said from the 30 Rock set of Pro Football Talk at the Super Bowl. “Don’t just study the offense. You’ve gotta study him. His mannerism, his throws, who he likes to throw to.”

However, that was four years ago, and it must be believed that Manning has learned from previous mistakes.

The challenge for the Seahawks is to find whatever hints and clues reside in Manning’s game now.

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Some proCanes Advance in the NFL Playoffs, While Others Are Sent Home Packing

With the first round of the NFL playoffs complete, some proCanes were sent home packing while others continue their quest for a Super Bowl ring.

With the New Orleans Saints defeating the Philadelphia Eagles, Jimmy Graham and Jon Vilma (IR) advance to the next round of the playoffs to take on the proCane-less Seattle Seahawks. Go Saints! The Eagles lost because they didn’t have any proCanes. Happy

Two proCanes were sent home with the Kansas City Chiefs losing a thriller to the Indianapolis Colts. DL Allen Bailey and TE Richard Gordon were sent home while Reggie Wayne (IR) will continue to help his team from sidelines in their next game versus the New England Patriots who have proCane DL Vince Wilfork who is also on IR.

The San Francisco 49ers behind the solid running of proCane RB Frank Gore ended up defeating the Green Bay Packers who lost proCane DB Sam Shields in the first quarter of their defeat. The 49ers will face the Carolina Panthers who have proCane TE Greg Olsen on the field and QB Coach Ken Dorsey on the sidelines. The Packers also have scouts Glenn Cook and Alonzo Highsmith on their staff as well as Winston Moss.

The Chargers who don’t have a proCane and defeated the proCane-less Bengals (boooooring), will face the Denver Broncos with their solid proCane offensive lineman Orlando Franklin.

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Jonathan Vilma's 'Celebrity Servers Charity Dinner' brings out the Saint in all of us

Coming off a great win against the Dallas Cowboys the day before, the New Orleans Saints and the Who Dat Nation were in ebullient spirits, especially at the “Celebrity Servers Charity Dinner” on Monday, Nov. 11. A benefit for the Jonathan Vilma Foundation, the star linebacker and his teammates, as well as a few local celebrities, traded their uniforms and work attire for aprons to wait on tables to raise money.

The evening started with a reception in The Shops at Canal Place, where guests could get up close to players such as Vilma, Pierre Thomas, Ramon Humber, Thomas Morstead, and former Saints player Steve Gleason (with whom they took photographs). The players also autographed footballs and aprons, which were sold at the event and proceeds went to the foundation.

The evening then moved to Morton’s, The Steakhouse, where fans enjoyed a four-course wine-pairing meal and could bid on items in the silent and live auctions. Those waiting tables, in addition to Vilma, Humber, Morstead and Thomas were New Orleans Saints co-owner Rita Benson LeBlanc, Saints Head Coach Sean Payton, Saints players Jimmy Graham, Roman Harper, Will Smith, Malcolm Jenkins, Will Herring, Cameron Jordan, Charles Brown and Robert Meachem, along with special guests former Saints player Michael Lewis, Mark Romig (who was the event’s live auctioneer and is the Saints' home-game PA announcer) and WVUE/Channel 8 Jennifer Hale, who served as the night’s emcee.

As of the next morning, the event had raised $180,000 for the foundation. Vilma established the foundation (working through the Giving Back Fund) after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. As Vilma’s parents are from Haiti, and family members remain, he is committed to assisting in the long-term rebuilding efforts. In 2011, the foundation partnered with Artists for Peace and Justice to create the first free, secondary school in Port-au-Prince. Since then, through foundation grants, the school has expanded and a third wing is under construction.

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Sean Payton: Vilma 'one of the all-timers'

METARIE, La. -- Coach Sean Payton on Thursday raved about linebacker Jonathan Vilma and what he has meant to the New Orleans Saints' organization both on and off the field, while also explaining why the team made the tough decision to place Vilma on season-ending injured reserve.

Payton said Vilma, 31, didn’t suffer any setbacks while playing 12 snaps last Sunday against the New York Jets. But the coach said it became evident that Vilma wasn’t far enough along in his recovery from a summer knee surgery to make the necessary impact on the rest of the season.

“That being said, the process that allowed him to go to IR, our decision to do that and then to kind of see if he could get better quick enough to play, I don’t regret. Especially with a player like Jon Vilma,” Payton said -- later adding, “Bring me as many Jon Vilmas as you can.”

Here’s more from Payton on Vilma:

On the decision: “The feeling on both of our parts was that what he’s used to and accustomed to playing, at a certain speed and a certain level and certainly what we’ve seen, still wasn’t there. But he’s progressing. ... It was more of just an overall knowing we’ve got eight weeks left in the season, and is he going to be able to progress enough to where he’s comfortable and we’re comfortable enough with his progress? ... But make no mistake about it -- this was something I’m sure was difficult for him to hear. There are some players that you almost have to pull off the field.”

On Vilma’s future prospects: “I know this -- I know he has made no long-term decisions. ... It is progressing. It is getting better, and that’s encouraging. That’s why I know for certain that there’s no finality or any decisions being made today. There doesn’t need to be.”

On Vilma’s approach to his rehab: “No. 1, I know he was real pleased with the surgery and the way it went. We were as well. I was encouraged with his recovery. He’s going to work (tirelessly) in anything he does. He’s so meticulous in preparation. So the same that you see in regards to a player that studies football was the same approach he took to rehabbing his knee.”

On what Vilma has meant to the Saints since he arrived in 2008: “He has been one of the all-timers as a coach, now, as far as a standup guy, a guy that prepares and a guy that takes everything he has done in the film room and brings it to the field. I’ve said this before. He has been what Drew (Brees) has been to our offense to our defense. You’re always going to go the extra mile with a player like that.”

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Source: Jon Vilma's career might be over

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's career may be over after he was placed on season-ending IR on Wednesday.

Vilma, who had just returned for his first game of this season, began the season on short-term injured reserve because of an arthroscopic procedure in August on his left knee, which has troubled him through multiple surgeries over the past two-plus seasons. The designation allowed the 10th-year linebacker to return to practice in Week 8 and to the active roster in Week 9.

Vilma was activated Saturday and played 12 defensive snaps in a 26-20 loss to his former team, the New York Jets, on Sunday. That represented about 20 percent of the Saints' defensive snaps. He was credited with one tackle.

Still, teammates expect him to be around and play a role in their success going forward.

''He's the heart and soul (of the defense). His voice speaks very, very loud,'' veteran safety Roman Harper said. ''He's always with us. He taught me how to play this game. There's a mental aspect of what he brings to a team and the leadership aspect is matched by none. He'll still be around and still be doing whatever he needs to do.

''We've always called him player-coach anyway,'' Harper added. ''He knows everything.''

Vilma was not present in the locker room at Saints headquarters when it was open to reporters on Wednesday.

After Sunday's game, Vilma said he ''felt fine,'' but added that he was eager to see how his knee responded in the coming days.

''It felt good to get back on the field to run around, really be with the guys, be with my teammates,'' Vilma said.

Coach Sean Payton did not explain or even acknowledge the roster move when he met with reporters after practice Wednesday, about two hours before it had been formally posted by the NFL. Payton generally declines to address roster moves until they've been made official.

However, the coach on Monday offered few compliments when asked about Vilma's return to action in New York.

''He looked OK; rusty,'' Payton said. ''There are some things that we have to get cleaned up.''

Vilma was traded by the Jets to the Saints in 2008 and was a captain of the 2009 Super Bowl championship team.

For his first four seasons in New Orleans, Vilma started at middle linebacker and was designated as the on-field defensive play-caller, with the earpiece in his helmet that allowed him to hear the defensive coordinator's instructions before each play. That ended last season, when Vilma was unable to train with the Saints for much of the offseason because of his suspension in connection with the NFL's bounty probe. The league named Vilma a ring-leader in a cash-for-hits program administered by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Vilma denied the allegations and his suspension was overturned, but he still missed the first five games of 2012 while rehabilitating his knee. His 2012 offseason procedures included one in Germany by a specialist in platelet rich plasma therapy, a relatively new blood-spinning technique also used by Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Vilma played the final 11 games of last season, but not at his regular middle linebacker spot, which was assumed by Curtis Lofton.

''The thing about JV is he's very cerebral, just like having a coach in there. He sees stuff I don't see because I'm playing. He sees the whole picture,'' Lofton said, describing Vilma's exhaustive studies of opponents' game video. ''He's just been a great player for this team for many years. It's just a tough break for him. He spent a lot of time getting his knee ready to come back.''

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No decision on Jon Vilma's status

METAIRIE, La. -- Linebacker Jonathan Vilma is now eligible to return to the New Orleans Saints' active roster. But coach Sean Payton did not indicate Thursday if and when the Saints plan to activate him.

The Saints have until Nov. 11 to decide whether to activate Vilma or place him on season-ending injured reserve.

“He’s doing well. He’s getting reps. It’s just a matter of getting back into football-playing shape,” Payton said. “He’s someone who is a quick study, so he knows what we’re doing.”

The Saints have the luxury of bringing Vilma along slowly since veteran David Hawthorne has played so well in his absence. Hawthorne made two more big plays with a forced fumble and a sack last week against the Buffalo Bills.

Although the Saints haven’t discussed their plans for using the two linebackers going forward, it stands to reason that Hawthorne will remain the starter, with Vilma being used in a rotational role.

The Saints themselves probably don’t know exactly what to expect from Vilma when he returns to action. He has been hampered by a knee injury on and off for three seasons now, including the arthroscopic clean-up surgery in the preseason that landed him on short-term injured reserve.

Payton said it was good to have the new short-term I.R. rule (enacted last season) as an option.

“The uncertainty was the procedure, and yet we felt pretty good after the spring,” Payton said. “I think we spent some time on (Vilma’s roster status). But I think we really felt like it was important for our team to see this through.

“The good news is he’s going to work extremely hard at anything he does. I know he worked very hard at the rehab element of coming back and strengthening his leg. That’s a credit to him. I’m glad we were able to do that. I think that’s a good rule change, something teams can benefit from.”

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Jonathan Vilma returns to practice

METAIRIE, La. -- Jonathan Vilma has returned to practice with the New Orleans Saints, the first step in a possible return to game action from the club's injured reserve list.

Vilma's status was posted on the NFL's transaction wire Monday evening.

Now in his 10th season, the 31-year-old Vilma had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in August. Vilma was placed on injured reserve to start the regular season, but designated for return, allowing him to remain with New Orleans and possibly return after eight weeks without consuming a spot on the active roster. Each team gets one such designation.

Vilma has had multiple knee surgeries and missed five games in each of the past two seasons. The Saints, who closed Monday's practice to media, have not said when they might activate Vilma.

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Jonathan Vilma says he'll start practicing Monday

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma appears to be one step closer to playing for the Saints again as he said via Twitter on Thursday that he will be allowed to practice with the team starting Monday.

Vilma said via Twitter, "Sean says I'm allowed to practice Mon!! After Mon it's the cliché "one day at a time."

Saints coach Sean Payton said last week he was optimistic Vilma could return to the practice field Monday for the first time since having another knee surgery during training camp.

Vilma remains on injured reserve/designated to return, but the Saints defender became eligible to practice with the team after Week 6. The Saints aren't practicing this week because of the bye week, so Vilma's first chance at hitting the practice field would be Monday.

Vilma would also be eligible to come off injured reserve and play in games in Week 9 at the New York Jets.

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Sean Payton: 'Jonathan Vilma could practice next week'

Sean Payton has revealed that Jonathan Vilma could return to practice with the team next week.

The New Orleans Saints linebacker was placed on the injured reserve designated to return list before the start of the regular season, having injured his knee during the pre-season.

The head coach told reporters: "He is progressing. We kind of look at it day-to-day, but that Monday coming back would be a potential day we would look at. I am optimistic he is going to be able to.

"It is kind of a bonus day for us. The first full day where you guys will be back will be on that Wednesday. Any time you have that extra day, we typically try to get in a bonus day on Monday.

"Tuesday the players will be off and then we would start up on that Wednesday. I am optimistic that he will get some work on that Monday. He's been doing well, yeah, so we will see. But he has been doing well with his progress."

Vilma had 37 tackles, a sack and an interception during his 11 games for the Saints last season.

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Jonathan Vilma to host 4th Annual Celebrity Servers event at Morton's the Steakhouse

Linebacker Jonathan Vilma will host his 4th Annual Celebrity Servers event at Morton’s the Steakhouse on Monday, November 11 from 6-10 p.m.

Vilma will be joined by his New Orleans Saints teammates as they trade in their helmets for aprons and serve guests a signature Morton’s four-course meal and fine wine. Guest also will experience a VIP cocktail reception and a live auction.

All proceeds benefit the Jonathan Vilma Foundation helping to build schools in Haiti and continuing students’ education.

Tickets are 400 dollars per guest and can be purchased now. For more sponsorship information, click here. 

ABOUT THE JONATHAN VILMA FOUNDATION NFL star Jonathan Vilma established The Jonathan Vilma Foundation to support the building of a school in Haiti. In 2010, a devastating 7.0 earthquake struck the region killing more than 230,000 people of which 40,000 were students and 1,000 were teachers. More than 50 schools were destroyed. Jonathan's parents emigrated from Haiti and family members remain in the country. Jonathan is deeply committed to assisting in the long-term rebuilding efforts.
In May 2011, the Jonathan Vilma Foundation made a $50,000 grant to Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ) to help expand the school they built in Haiti in response to the devastating earthquake. The school is fittingly named the Academy for Peace and Justice. In April 2012, Vilma visited the school and met with the students who now receive free education, uniforms, food, clean water, transportation and medical care through the school. In 2012 and 2013, the Jonathan Vilma Foundation made grants of $100,000 and $50,000, respectively, to help further expand the Academy in Haiti. For additional information, please call 310.649.5222 or visit

ABOUT LANDRY’S, INC. Landry's is a national, diversified restaurant, hospitality and entertainment company principally engaged in the ownership and operation of high end and casual dining restaurants, primarily under the names of Landry's Seafood House, Rainforest Cafe, McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, The Chart House, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Claim Jumper, Saltgrass Steak House and Oceanaire, as well as a fine dining signature group of restaurants: Morton's Steakhouse, Vic & Anthony's, Grotto, Willie G's and others. Morton’s The Steakhouse first opened in Chicago and now boasts 69 locations across the world. The Company is also engaged in the ownership and operation of gaming, hospitality and entertainment businesses, including the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casinos in Las Vegas and Laughlin, Nevada, and Atlantic City, the Kemah Boardwalk, the San Luis Resort Complex, and the Downtown Aquariums in Denver and Houston. Landry's and Mr. Fertitta's affiliated companies will generate approximately $2.5 billion in revenues in 2012. For additional information, please call 713.850.1010 or visit

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Jon Vilma prepares for business life

With the season underway, NFL players are now solidly focused on football again. But many of them spent their offseason developing business ventures off the field.

To help avoid the cautionary tales of players who have gone bankrupt despite making millions during their career, the NFL and NFL Players Association have put increasing resources into transitional and second-career programs.

One such program, the Professional Athlete Franchise Initiative and its parent company, the International Franchise Association, hosted the NFL Franchising Boot Camp with the NFL and the University of Michigan in April. Michael Stone, a former NFL player and founder of PAFI, says approximately 25 players and 10 of their spouses attended this year's inaugural event.

Stone founded PAFI after retiring from the New York Giants in 2008. At that time, he felt there was a gap in the transitional experience of a player. He met former NBA player Junior Bridgeman, who owns hundreds of restaurant franchises, and learned about the benefits of being a franchisee.

"I thought franchising could be a good fit for an athlete because it has the support," said Stone. "It's almost like a business with a coach, with a game plan. I didn't have to create the game plan myself. I didn't have to design the plays or market my team -- everything was packaged for me, and all I had to do was execute the plays. I saw the parallels between that and the athlete experience."

Stone says in addition to that natural fit, the franchising industry is heavily regulated, making it a safer bet than some of the other business ventures athletes are approached with.

"A franchisor cannot lie to you about how many stores they've opened and closed or how many bankruptcies they've had," said Stone. "You can reach out to every franchisee and see how happy they are with the brand, how many stores they've closed, and their average revenue."

PAFI prides itself on not making decisions for athletes, but instead providing them with the necessary knowledge to complete their own due diligence and find the franchise opportunity that's right for them.

Everette Brown, who recently became a free agent after being cut from the Philadelphia Eagles, didn't go through PAFI, but he did find a franchise opportunity that fit him: a Tropical Smoothie Café he's opening in Charlotte, N.C., in October.

Brown says he focused on speaking with successful franchisees and used his alumni connections at his alma mater to learn more about the industry.

"I have a lot of connections through [Florida State], so I was able to go back and talk to boosters and go to different events and just network and ask questions and obtain as much information as I possibly could," said Brown.

For Brown, it was important to pick a franchise with a product he could stand behind.

"I had to look at what franchise fits what I'm about," said Brown. "That's where Tropical Smoothie Café stood out to me. I was first introduced to the brand when I went to FSU. The product is healthy and it tastes good. It didn't feel like something I had to force."

Brown says he knew it was important to look into business ventures off the field early on.

"The NFL stands for 'Not For Long.' That's the mindset you have to have."

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma says he has always understood the importance of developing a career off the field.

"[Developing business ventures] was always a priority for me when I was able to have enough cash saved up first," said Vilma, who's currently recovering from knee surgery. "If I made it three years in [the NFL] I had a certain plan, then if I made it five years I had a certain plan."

Now entering his 10th year in the NFL, Vilma has met those goals for saving money and has started venturing into other businesses in recent years. He owns South Beach bar Foxhole, a Brother Jimmy's BBQ franchise, and now he's a co-owner and franchisor of an app called BarEye.

Vilma is also having to navigate the perils of the business world; his Brother Jimmys BBQ franchise and the Marlins are currently suing one another over a failed concessions stand in Marlins Park.

But his BarEye app has been gaining traction.

BarEye allows users buy drinks for others at participating bars. Drinks can be purchased by those who aren't even present, with the recipient showing their phone to the bartender or scanning it at an iPad that BarEye provides to participating bars.

"Someone can log on to BarEye and say I'm at 'Bar X.' Let's say it's her birthday and she comes in with maybe five of her friends," explained Vilma. "Some of her friends can't make it, but they can still buy her a drink [using the app]."

BarEye came around at the perfect time for Vilma. Last year, he was forced to confront the reality of life outside of football head-on when he was suspended for the season for his role in the Saints' bounty program.

"I don't want to say it was a blessing," Vilma said. "But I was able to put more focus on BarEye and my restaurants at the time."

While Vilma appealed the suspension, which was lifted just before the 2012 season opener, he says he worked out for a couple of hours each morning to prepare for whenever he might play again, then he'd spend the rest of his day focusing on his business ventures.

"It gave me a lot of perspective," Vilma said. "Now I can prepare for life outside of football."

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Jon Vilma vows to move forward with NFL defamation suit

One day after his suspension in the NFL's bounty probe was overturned, Jonathan Vilma moved forward with his defamation claims against Commissioner Roger Goodell, while Drew Brees and other teammates went on the offensive against Goodell and the league office.

"What I would like to see is a level of accountability on the part of the NFL and Commissioner Goodell in regards to mishandling of this entire situation," Brees said after practice Wednesday. "We as players hold ourselves and are held to a very strict code of conduct both on and off the field. We have to be accountable to that, as it should be, and I feel like they should be held to the same standards.

"If someone would just come out in the league office and admit, `You know what? We could have handled this situation better,' it would go such a long way with both players and fans. People would really come around to realize what this thing was all about because right now the league office and Commissioner Goodell have very little to no credibility with us as players."

Speaking later at a special league meeting in Dallas, Goodell, when apprised of Brees' comments, said he wouldn't apologize.

"To have a bounty program where you're targeting players for injury is completely unacceptable in the NFL, and it is clear that occurred for three years despite all of the denials," Goodell said.

Vilma was initially suspended an entire season while three other players — Saints defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita and free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, received various suspensions of shorter lengths.

Paul Tagliabue, the former commissioner appointed by Goodell to handle the final round of appeals, threw out the suspensions and ruled there would be no fines, either, for any of the players. However, he absolved only Fujita. Tagliabue still found that Vilma and Smith took part in a Saints program that rewarded injurious hits and that Hargrove was not entirely truthful when NFL investigators asked him about the pool, but he said the suspensions levied by Goodell were disproportionate to how players had historically been punished for similar behavior, and because there was no clear link to "tough talk" about taking opponents out of game and the actual play on the field.

In motions filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, Vilma and the NFL Players Association filed motions dropping their claims against the league over the player-discipline phase of the bounty probe.

However, Vilma notified U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan he would continue to pursue defamation claims he filed against the commissioner back in May, and asked the judge to open the discovery process which includes the collection of evidence and deposing of witnesses.

Later in the day, Berrigan ruled against opening discovery at this time, likely because she has yet to rule on the NFL's motion to dismiss Vilma's claims.
Vilma made it clear that he still believes his reputation has been harmed by the way Goodell spoke publicly about allegations that Vilma was the ring-leader of a bounty program which rewarded hits that injured targeted opponents, and that he put up $10,000 bounties on Kurt Warner and Brett Favre in the 2009-10 playoffs.

'No do-overs'
"Well the most important part of me being able to play now and not having to worry about a lingering suspension, that part is over," Vilma said. "I'm excited about that. The next part is really, that's outside of football. That's talking about attacking a man's character, attacking a man's integrity.

Vilma said he could not be sure what kind of settlement he might be willing to accept, but sounded like he was more interested in seeing through a court case with evidence made public than taking a financial settlement and keeping quiet.

"This is my career. There are no do-overs in football. I don't get to stop, wait five years and start over and come back with a new attitude, or a new face, or anything like that," Vilma said. "This is my legacy. This is what I leave behind. If I were to stop now, the only thing people are going to remember is the bounty. They're not going to remember anything before that. They're not going to remember all the accolades. That's why it's very important."

Goodell said Tagliabue's report "made it quite clear that he holds the management and the coaches responsible. My personal view is I hold everyone responsible. We have to have a personal responsibility here. Player health and safety is an important issue in this league."

Saints head coach Sean Payton is serving a full-season suspension, while general manager Mickey Loomis served eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt six.

Smith, the Saints' defensive end, also was critical of Tagliabue's opinion, saying that while he was pleased his suspension was overturned, he did not understand why he was completely exonerated. He said he thought the testimony of two key NFL witnesses in the probe, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and former defensive assistant Mike Cerullo, cleared him, though the NFL disagreed.

According to transcripts of closed hearings obtained by The Associated Press from a person with the role in the case, Williams and Cerullo both testified that Smith contributed money to a pay-for-performance pool that among other things rewarded hard legal hits, including those that knocked players out of games. However, when asked directly if Smith every put a bounty on anyone or even suggested that the Saints should try to injure any opposing player, both former coaches answered, "No."

"People actually think that we actually went out and did this, and we didn't do this," Smith said of the bounty program, adding that he had not decided whether to pursue any defamation claims of his own. "The only thing that was going on was a pay-for-performance that pretty much every other team in the league has and have had for years. That was it, I never participate in a bounty or put money down to injure another player or encourage other guys to injure other players."

Vilma said he was not bothered by the wording of Tagliabue's ruling, saying he fully expected the former commissioner, who works with a firm that represents the NFL, to be careful not to expose his client to liability.

Brees had a dimmer view.

"I hate to say this because it sounds so conspiracy theorist, but it seems like the last, at least, month or so, especially once Tagliabue stepped in, it's very staged, as in, `OK, how do we get ourselves out of this mess, let the players off," Brees said. "Thank God we have a union that can represent the players and fight the process and represent our guys. Unfortunately, the coaches don't have that. The coaches are told the way it's going to be, and they have no way to fight back unfortunately, because I'd say certainly Mickey Loomis, Joe Vitt and Sean Payton didn't deserve what they got.

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Jonathan Vilma in Middle of Legal Battle With Miami Marlin

NFL star and Miami native Jonathan Vilma is in the middle of a legal battle with the Miami Marlins, claiming the team failed to live up to its promises and mismanaged a concession stand related to his barbecue restaurant.

The Saints linebacker, who is a co-owner of the Brother Jimmy's BBQ franchise in Miami, and the team have filed lawsuits against each other in Miami-Dade over the failed stand at Marlins Park.

The Marlins' lawsuit, filed in June, claims Brother Jimmy's breached a sponsorship agreement with the team and failed to pay $75,000 in sponsorship fees for the 2012 season. It also claims Brother Jimmy's didn't give the Marlins 60 days' notice that they were terminating the agreement for 2013.

"Brother Jimmy's failure to pay the 2012 and 2013 Sponsorship Fee is a material breach of the Sponsorship agreement," the Marlins' lawsuit reads. "Brother Jimmy's has been unjustly enriched at the expense of Marlins."

Emails and phone calls to the Marlins and their attorney weren't immediately returned Thursday.

Brother Jimmy's says they never reached an official sponsorship agreement, but they allowed the team to prepare and sell their food at a discount under the Brother Jimmy's name. The restaurant claims the team botched the food stand so badly it had to be shut down.

"We did voice our concerns and we actually personally went there, we went to the games and we wouldn't let them know who we were, we'd go and taste our own food and we'd tell them look, 'this food is not to our standards,'" Vilma said during an appearance Wednesday on the Kup & Crowder Show on 560 WQAM. "It hurts us as a business because if for the first time a fan goes to Marlins stadium, they taste Brother Jimmy's, they say 'this food is terrible,' and all they're gonna remember is the bad food and or service that they got at the Marlins stadium and we expected better than that."

Vilma, 31, along with Chicago Bears linebacker D.J. Williams and Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason, opened their Brother Jimmy's restaurant at Mary Brickell Village last year. All three are alumni of the University of Miami. Other Brother Jimmy's restaurants are located in New York, New Jersey and even in Yankee Stadium.  

Brother Jimmy's claims they paid $25,000 to the Marlins in good faith, even though they never reached an official agreement.

"The service wasn't good and we're trying to build a name for ourselves and the Marlins and Levy group, the food company they're using, was putting out a bad product and it kind of was opposite of what we were expecting," Vilma said. "We expected something similar to the Yankees, where they put out a good product, what they sell you and what they market to you, what you're paying for is what you're gonna get.

"Unfortunately it just wasn't the case with the Marlins, they didn't sell us, actually they oversold us like they've done a few times now."

Phone calls to Levy Restaurants, which is based in Chicago and operates concessions in stadiums and arenas across the country, weren't immediately returned Thursday.

Brother Jimmy's and Vilma also claim the Marlins made promises that attendance for the new ballpark would average 28,000 per game for the 2012 season, a mark that wasn't hit.

"They unfortunately sold us a dream, the attendance wasn't what they were marketing to us, it was probably a fraction of that," Vilma said.    The Marlins came in 18th out of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball in 2012, despite opening their brand new, $600 million ballpark. So far in 2013, they're last in the league in attendance.

Brother Jimmy's claims the team also promised 40 non-baseball events at the stadium that were never held. Vilma said issues with bad service and bad food weren't rectified.

"This is huge for our brand, for our concept, for our food and they heard us but they won't really listen. It's the same old 'oh we're sorry, we're gonna do our best to make up for this, etcetera, etcetera, and instead, we got nothing, we got the same issues, the same complaints and the same problems," he said. "The next step for us, they filed suit, we filed a counterclaim and we let them know, the things that they tried to minimize in our suit is something that's very serious to our brand. Our food is our brand, the only way people are gonna want to enjoy or come to Brother Jimmy's is for the food and for the atmosphere."

Brother Jimmy's is seeking to get back the $25,000 they paid to the team plus damages.

"We can't have a one off in the Marlins stadium being the worst place to go for Brother Jimmy's and on top of that being one of the newer locations and a more visible location within Miami," Vilma said. "Hopefully we'll get it rectified. As I said, it's an unfortunate situation, they oversold us, I think we all know the Marlins have been doing a good job of that the past couple years."

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Jonathan Vilma to short-term IR

The New Orleans Saints placed linebacker Jonathan Vilma on injured reserve-designated to return Tuesday.

Vilma, 31, underwent knee surgery in August, and has had numerous surgeries on his left knee during the past two seasons. He missed five games in 2011 and started last season on the physically unable to perform list.

Tuesday marked the first day teams could use the short-term IR designation on a player. Vilma would be able to return to practice after Week 6 and get back on the field after Week 8.

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End of the road for Vilma?

These are words that no fan of the New Orleans Saints wants to hear. But Jeff Duncan simply might be pointing out a harsh reality when he writes that this may be the end of the road for linebackers Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma.

Smith is out for the season with a torn ACL. Vilma recently had knee surgery, his fourth (that we know of) in the past couple of years. It remains to be seen if Vilma will be back on the field this season -- or ever.

Smith and Vilma have been important cogs on this defense for a long time. They also are revered in New Orleans. Their status only grew last year when they avoided the suspensions NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tried to give them during the bounty scandal.

Vilma and Smith appealed at every juncture and that strategy worked.

But there’s no appealing their current situations. Vilma and Smith each took pay cuts to remain with the Saints this year. But age and injuries are catching up to them.

Smith has a ridiculous salary-cap figure for 2014. Vilma hasn’t been an elite player for several years.

The Saints need to start getting younger on defense. They’re already working on that with Smith out for the season and Vilma’s status uncertain for this year.

But, no matter how you look at it, it seems highly unlikely Vilma and Smith will be with the Saints in 2014.

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Jonathan Vilma has knee surgery, expected back for opener

Well, now we know why Jonathan Vilma was in Philadelphia, and what he was getting a second opinion on.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Saints linebacker is having knee surgery today.

Vilma is expected to miss the rest of the preseason, but is expected to be ready for the regular season opener.

Vilma’s viability has been a question on several levels. He missed six games last year because of knee problems, and had to take a pay cut just to keep his spot with the Saints.

There’s also a reasonable question of how good a fit he is in a 3-4 defense, and that question will now have to be answered without the benefit of preseason snaps to work on it.

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Jonathan Vilma battling injury

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma flew to Philadelphia on Wednesday to get a second opinion on an unspecified injury, a league source said.

Vilma, 31, has missed six of the past eight practice sessions and did not participate in the first preseason game. The team has not revealed what Vilma's injury is. Coach Sean Payton said Wednesday he wasn't going to discuss the situations of any injured players.

Vilma missed six games with a knee injury last season.

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Jon Vilma says he's in his best shape in years

METAIRIE, La. -- Although the bounty scandal is now behind Jonathan Vilma, so are nine punishing NFL seasons.

The Saints linebacker and longtime defensive captain appreciates that many will wonder if he's lost a step after 870 tackles since turning pro in 2004, not to mention several knee procedures in the past two years. Vilma responds confidently to the skepticism, saying his rehabilitation is complete, and that he is in his best physical shape in years.

"Physically, I'm very good, a lot better than last year," Vilma asserted. "I'd be stupid to say I feel as great as when I was a rookie. Of course not. I do feel able to run and do all the things that I was able to do back in 2010. ... I just needed a little time (to rehabilitate) that I didn't get last year because of everything that was going on."

Indeed, a year has made a big difference in many aspects of Vilma's life. Last summer, while fighting his bounty suspension in federal court, he testified that damage to his reputation hurt his ability to raise money for business and charity endeavors.

Now, not only does he believe his football career is back on track, he is also expanding his business interests. Already an investor in multiple restaurants and bars, Vilma spoke said he prepared for Thursday's launch of his new venture involving a smartphone application catering to bars and club patrons. The launch coincided with reporting day for Saints training camp.

"I've been fortunate to play football and make a living out of it, but business has always interested me," said Vilma, who majored in finance at Miami, and whose new venture is called BarEye.

This season, meanwhile, should provide a clearer picture of how long Vilma can expect to remain in the business of playing football.

Vilma, 31, missed five games in 2011 with a left knee injury, then had several surgeries and traveled to Germany to see a specialist in platelet rich plasma therapy, a relatively new blood-spinning technique also used by Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez.

Even as he went to such lengths, Vilma said his rehabilitation was hindered by the league's bounty investigation, which named him as the ringleader of a program that paid improper cash bonuses for hard and even injurious hits. Vilma initially received a full-season suspension, which banned him from Saints facilities during much of the offseason and training camp.

Vilma maintained he would never intentionally injure fellow players, and that the bonuses were similar to incentives NFL players league-wide had offered teammates for years.

During a lengthy appeal, he was reinstated in Week 1 of the regular season, but placed on the physically unable to perform list before finally playing on Oct. 21.

With Curtis Lofton in his old middle linebacker spot, Vilma played outside linebacker in 11 games, recording a career-low 37 tackles.

Now he must adapt to new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's scheme, which features a switch from a 4-3 alignment (four linemen, three linebackers) to a 3-4. When Vilma last played in a 3-4 for the New York Jets in 2007, it did not suit him. He was traded to New Orleans in 2008, where he thrived in a three-linebacker formation.

Vilma said this time will be different because Ryan's scheme is flexible enough to capitalize on players' strengths.

"What I like about Rob is he's saying, 'I don't want to limit you by putting you in a stagnant 3-4,'" said Vilma, who is expected to play weak side middle linebacker, with Lofton on the strong side. "It's about: Let's get after it, be aggressive. Let's be fast."

Vilma noted that in former coordinator Gregg Williams' defense from 2009-11, the Saints often pulled out of their basic 4-3 and blitzed out of a 3-4.
Ryan studied film of those seasons and brought back some of those schemes.

"He told us, 'I'm not going to mess with you guys. I know what you guys do well and what you don't do well, so I'm going to put you in a situation that makes you look good,'" Vilma said. "Hopefully it turns out that way."

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Can Jonathan Vilma return to form?

We’ve hit the home stretch of the offseason with precious little time remaining for players and coaches to get their non-football lives in order.  The first practice for the 2013 season is Friday, July 26. will take a look at 10 questions for New Orleans entering training camp and the season. They’re in no particular order, just numbered.
We’ve love to get your thoughts on each day’s topic. Leave your comment below or on the station’s Facebook page to further the discussion.

8. Can Jonathan Vilma return to form?
Talent and effort have never been Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s issue. For every season that he has been healthy, he has finished with no fewer than 116 tackles.

But two things don’t play in his favor heading into the 2013 season.
A)    New Orleans’ switch to a 3-4 defense B)    He’s 31 and has had several big knee surgeries.

We’ll start with A. Vilma is a true 4-3 middle linebacker. He’s an on-field coach, one with the specific skills to single-handedly get the defense in order while tending to his own responsibilities. In the move to the 3-4, he’ll have to share responsibilities with Curtis Lofton and learn to attack the gaps in the offensive line differently.

That turns our attention to B. Vilma was never the most athletic player on the field. He always understood the defense and how to use his knowledge of it to get into position.

But coming off of two seasons in which he was never fully healthy due to a left knee injury that required extensive surgery in the ’12 offseason, one has to wonder if he has the physical tools still to succeed.

If he can’t physically elude blockers or keep up with players out on routes, whether he can transition to a 3-4 from a 4-3 won’t really matter.

Yet, he does have the size to succeed if his knee holds up. At 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, he’s basically the same size as the Dallas Cowboys inside linebackers in 2012 and we don’t need to tell you that Vilma’s new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was with the team in the Lone Star State last year.

And Vilma is a much more mature player now than he was when the New York Jets moved to a 3-4 and, according to the Newark Star-Ledger on Nov. 7, 2007, told friends he wasn’t happy with the 3-4 system Eric Mangini had in place.

There are varying degrees in returning to form, however, and Vilma should return somewhere in the middle. He will undoubtedly be better than he was in 2012 when he spent the first week on the commissioner’s permission list before the next four were on the physically unable to perform list.

The best example that shows there’s still some gas left in Vilma’s tank came in the final game of the 2012 regular season. He finished with a season-high 11 tackles and intercepted a pass while defending two others.

But it’s hard to envision him as the marauding middle linebacker of 2009 when he finished with 130 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions and eight passes defensed.

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New Orleans Saints' Roster Top 25 Players: No. 23, Jonathan Vilma

As a veteran who was an integral part of the Saints' Super Bowl victory but has seen a decline in performance over the past few years, Jonathan Vilma is No. 23 on my list of the top 25 Saints' for 2013. I'm sure the vast majority of you would put Vilma in your top 15, but his play on the field is just not what it used to be and in most people's minds he isn't even the best inside linebacker on the team anymore. Vilma's leadership is still unquestioned, but leadership only goes so far when your play is regressing.

It's difficult to truly evaluate Vilma's 2012 performance since so many variables came into play. Firstly, he didn't even see the field until Week 7 due to the scandal that shall not go unnamed. Second, Sean Payton was not around and Vilma had to come into a defense run by Steve Spagnuolo, an unfamiliar defense coordinator. Lastly, Vilma was playing a lot of outside linebacker instead of the middle linebacker spot he has occupied throughout his career before Curtis Lofton arrived. This last reason also contributes to Vilma's low ranking, as there is a fair amount of uncertainty as to how he will fit in the 3-4 defense. I do think, however, that Vilma's intelligence will allow him to pick up Rob Ryan's complicated schemes quickly. So in my book it's just a matter of if his level of play will be high enough.

In 2011, Jonathan Vilma was Pro Football Focus's third worst inside linebacker against the run. While it's hard to accurately gauge his performance in 2012 due to the aforementioned reasons, his play against the run seemed to improve in 2012. Coverage has been Vilma's forte, but that aspect of his game has also regressed a bit recently. He will definitely need to improve his tackling, though, as he missed nine tackles on 410 snaps in 2012 in comparison to 5 missed tackles on 657 snaps in 2012. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how he performs in this new scheme and with a chip on his shoulder, to say the least.

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Ranking the New Orleans Saints' players: No. 18, Jonathan Vilma

Once again this offseason, our Saints coverage team has ranked the top 25 players on New Orleans' roster. We'll unveil the list every weekday as we count down to training camp.

The criteria is largely based on one question: Who would be the best players on the field if a game was played today? Past accomplishments and future potential also are taken into account.

There were tough decisions, which likely will lead to plenty of second-guessing. So let the debate begin.

No. 18: LB Jonathan Vilma
Last Year's Rank: 11
Season: 10; Age: 31; Height: 6-1; Weight: 230

Vilma might be the hardest player to rank on this list because we haven't seen him fully healthy since 2010. At that point, Vilma was a back-to-back Pro Bowl player and the best defender on the Saints' roster. It's possible he could return to a similar level now that he's finally recovered from a major knee injury. But it's no sure thing since he's 31 and switching positions to the inside weakside linebacker in the Saints' new 3-4 scheme.

Vilma is a bit undersized for a middle linebacker. But he has always made up for it with his great instincts and intelligence (linebackers coach Joe Vitt claims Vilma has a photographic memory). Vilma has always had a knack for making big plays. We just didn't see as many of them last year after he returned from knee surgery in Week 7.

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Jonathan Vilma practicing as starting ILB

Jonathan Vilma and Curtis Lofton worked as the Saints' starting inside linebackers throughout OTAs and minicamp.

Vilma is playing the weak-inside position, while Lofton is the strong-side inside linebacker or "Mike." David Hawthorne doesn't appear to be pushing Vilma, who is superior in terms of both range and coverage. Lofton led the Saints in tackles (123) last season and figures to do so again this year.

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VIDEO: Stephen A Smith Apologizes to Jonathan Vilma

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Rejuvenated Jonathan Vilma says it was worth taking pay cut

It's hard to imagine that any New Orleans Saints player is enjoying this offseason more than linebacker Jonathan Vilma. Although he still referred to the NFL's harsh bounty punishments as a "raw deal" on Wednesday night, he's no longer living under that dark cloud of a looming one-year suspension and a vicious legal battle against commissioner Roger Goodell.

Just as refreshing, Vilma is now fully healthy after battling through a major knee injury over the course of two full seasons.

And perhaps best of all, he's still here with the Saints.

Vilma, 31, had to take a significant pay cut to stay in New Orleans, from $6 million in salary and bonuses to $1.2 million. And that probably meant swallowing a good deal of pride for the three-time former Pro Bowler as well.

But it was worth it to Vilma, who wanted to be a part of this new, fresh start in 2013 that has created a noticeable energy and intensity inside the Saints' practice facility this offseason.

New Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan recently referred to the inspired Vilma as "the talk of the weight room and the offseason."

"I think we definitely have the intensity. And that just comes from being able to focus on football and what really matters instead of really focusing on other things," said Vilma, who spoke publicly for the first time this offseason during guard Ben Grubbs' charity softball game at Zephyr Field. "I think Sean (Payton) put it best when we had our first meeting. We're not gonna let what happened fuel us. What's gonna fuel us is our team, our intensity, our desire to win, our ability to go out there and win some games."

I've liked a lot of the moves that the Saints have made this offseason. But I'm not sure any of them impressed me more than Vilma and defensive end Will Smith's willingness to take dramatic pay cuts to stay with the team.

Sure, the writing was on the wall for both former Pro Bowlers. They were no longer producing at the level that matched their price tags, and they had no choice but to take those pay cuts if they wanted to stay employed.

But these things don't always work out so smoothly. Just ask the Chicago Bears and legendary linebacker Brian Urlacher, who's still out of work. Or the Pittsburgh Steelers and James Harrison, who is now playing for the rival Cincinnati Bengals.

I think it says a lot about the kind of guys that Vilma and Smith are. And even though I don't think they'll return to a Pro Bowl level on the field as they enter the later stages of their careers, I do think they can still be assets both on and off the field.

They're among the most respected veteran leaders in the locker room - maybe even more so after showing their dedication to staying here.

"Hey, I'm good on the money side. So it's just about winning right now," Vilma said. "And, you know, we say that all the time. But I would like to believe that most of our team really believes that. That we're a team. It's not really about individuals, it's not really about selfish, it's just about winning.

"And I think that we kind of got a raw deal last year. It is what it is. And so we want to get back out there this year."

Vilma especially can't wait to get back out there at full speed.

He is finally back to full health after suffering a knee injury in the second game of 2011. Vilma tried to play through the injury throughout that 2011 season, then he eventually had major surgery that sidelined him until Week 7 of the 2012 season. He never looked quite like himself in either season.

It's hard to predict that Vilma will be able to return to the same level he was at when he was 28 years old. But he'll at least feel better while he tries.

When the topic of his health was brought up on Wednesday, Vilma didn't even wait for the question to end.

"2010. It's been a while," Vilma said. "It's about that time, right? Yeah, I feel good. What a difference a year makes."

Vilma will also have to make the transition to a 3-4 defense, which wasn't a great fit for him when he played it for one year with the New York Jets in 2007 after they made the switch under new coach Eric Mangini.

In fact, that was a major part of the reason why Vilma was traded to the Saints in 2008 - because he wanted to get back to playing middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense, where he has always had his best success in college and the pros.

But Vilma insisted Wednesday night that he has no problem returning to that same position he played in the Jets' 3-4 - the weak-side inside linebacker spot.
And he already showed his willingness to embrace a position change with the Saints last year. When Vilma returned from his knee injury, newly-signed linebacker Curtis Lofton had taken over the middle linebacker job. So Vilma played weakside linebacker in the 4-3 and nickel linebacker, both for the first time in his career.

"I just didn't like the way we ran the 3-4 with the Jets," Vilma said. "And, you know, there's no point in going into details from way back then, but of course naturally I was going to say that. I was coming off a Pro Bowl and leading the league in tackles. So, duh. Of course I liked (the 4-3). But right now it's good. It's good."

Vilma said there are actually a lot of similarities between Ryan's defense and Mangini's defense.

"They came under pretty much the same lineage, so some of their terminology is the same and the way (Ryan) runs some of the defense is the same. It looks like he may be a little more aggressive than Mangini was. And we'll go from there," Vilma said. "You know, in New York we just didn't have the personnel. We had a small nose tackle, Dewayne Robertson, he was under 300. Our five-techniques were kind of light. So it kind of messed us up just with that respect. But the concept was good.

"We have some guys here I think that can play really well in the 3-4, we brought in a couple guys. And of course a couple guys we had from Gregg (Williams') system were kind of retro-fitted a little more for a 3-4 to stop the run (from 2009-2011). That's the big thing, stopping the run."

As for his early impressions of Ryan as both a schemer and a leader, Vilma sounded enthusiastic, though the team won't begin on-field practice sessions until next week.

"I like Rob. Rob is an old-school coach. You know, he believes in putting players in position to make plays," Vilma said. "So we're fine with (the changes). From what we've seen so far in the meetings and our install, it looks good. And it's just a matter of applying it now to the field."

When asked if he expects more aggressiveness from Ryan's scheme, Vilma said:

"You know what, you can create that one of two ways with a defense. Blitzing a lot, like Gregg used to blitz a lot. Or you can create it as far as just with the atmosphere, with Coach, his style, his demeanor, his attitude. And I think that he's getting it both ways. So we can be very aggressive with blitzing, or we can just be aggressive with our base defense and just play it well. So we'll see what happens."

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Jonathan Vilma has inside shot

New Orleans Saints LB Jonathan Vilma has been the talk of the weight room and seems to be the front-runner for the second inside spot.

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Jonathan Vilma took a $3.7 million pay cut to stay

Saints LB Jonathan Vilma took a $3.7 million pay cut to stay in New Orleans.

He sliced his salary from $4.8 million all the way down to $1 million. Vilma did have his offseason workout bonus increased from $100,000 to $200,000, but this was a pretty large pay cut. Vilma's salary cap number has been reduced from $8.633 million to $3.833 million. Though a poor run defender at age 31, Vilma remains decent in pass coverage. He'll likely be a nickel 'backer in 2013.

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Jonathan Vilma, Saints vets will be back, at right price

Statistically speaking, the New Orleans Saints had the worst defense in NFL history last season.

That reality cost defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo his job, but coach Sean Payton would like to retain some of the noted veterans of that depressing unit. Defensive end Will Smith, linebacker Jonathan Vilma and safety Roman Harper are high-priced talents Payton wants back. He knows that might not be possible, however.

"First off, I do envision those guys in a Saints uniform, and yet I'm also realistic and understand that every year since the beginning of free agency the percentage of players on your roster that turns over is different than it used to be," Payton said Tuesday on WWL-AM, via The Times-Picayune. "There was a time where you had your draft. What two or three rookies were going to beat out the veterans on a roster?"

The Saints have restructured multiple contracts on their roster in an effort to get below the salary cap. They're still over, meaning more work must be done by the start of a new league year on March 12.

"It's different now. There's an economic factor to it. It's as simple as a household budget," Payton said. "If you're going to have cable and you're going to have heat, you might not be able to have something else. So you've really got to look closely at your production, you've got to look closely at your cap."

Payton is keeping it simple, and so will we. Smith, Vilma and Harper will all be asked to take major pay cuts. If they refuse, goodbye and good luck.

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Jonathan Vilma offered reduced deal

The New Orleans Saints have offered a reduced contract offer to LB Jonathan Vilma, which would allow him to stay with the team. The two sides are discussing the deal.

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Saints will ask Jonathan Vilma to restructure contract

Two New Orleans Saints veteran leaders will have to work with the club on adjusted contracts to stick around in 2013.

Linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith will be asked to restructure their contracts to help the team with its bloated salary cap situation, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.

Both agreed to restructure their contracts last offseason to help the Saints out on the salary cap front. Smith is set to make $9 million with a cap figure of $14.5 million this season while Vilma is due a $4.8 million salary as part of a sizable $8.6 million cap figure.

Linebacker Curtis Lofton already has agreed to a restructured deal to stick around in New Orleans as the team shifts from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 scheme under new coordinator.

Saints head coach Sean Payton publicly said this month that Vilma can play in the new alignment while Will Smith may have the flexibility to remain a performer at the defensive end spot in the new front three set.

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Sean Payton sees a role for Jonathan Vilma in new New Orleans Saints 3-4 defense

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton said he sees linebacker Jonathan Vilma as a piece of the team's new 3-4 defensive scheme, Payton said in an interview Tuesday morning on Sirius/XM NFL Radio.

The topic of Vilma's salary wasn't brought up, but Payton said he can see Vilma playing a weakside linebacker spot in the new 3-4 scheme, while Curtis Lofton would maintain his role as a middle linebacker.

"Yeah, I don't think anyone wants to place him over that guard bubble and have to take on that block," Payton said. "And I think he's a guy that runs to the ball and has great vision, very instinctual football player. I think you take some of that away if all of a sudden he's playing over an uncovered guard and now his size becomes an issue.

"A lot of things may concern you with a player change. So, he'll play over on that weakside position and I that will be very similar to what he did this past year. Curtis Lofton, who's a little heavier, will play on that strong inside Mike position. So I think that part of it for those two guys transition pretty well."

Vilma, though, is set to make $4.8 million in base salary and hold a salary cap figure of around $8.6 million. With the Saints being somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million over the salary cap, it's highly likely Vilma would have to take a drastic pay cut to remain in New Orleans. But Payton also used Vilma as an example of a player on the roster that can make the switch from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4.

"I don't know that we have the pieces in place that we feel comfortable with, or certainly there's a transition," Payton said. "A lot of this process, as a matter of fact, he and I spoke for about an hour about certain players and where they line up the first day of OTAs. And then you take what you have on the roster and you begin to put them into these spots and then you tweak and you make adjustments and you look to make additions.

"I think the way that we're going to run this defense and the type of 3-4 that we're running will be such that you saw in Dallas or Houston. There will be some under defensive principles to it. Some reduction, which means that the left guard or weak guard for the offense will be covered at times, and I think that will help a guy like Jon Vilma as opposed to the traditional two-gap 34 front that many Giants fans knew back when Bill Parcells was there ... So I do think there's some work to be done obviously when you make a change like this.

"You have the scouts who need to identify what the prototypes are for these positions different from what the scouts and everyone else in the building viewed as a prototype for the 43 scheme. Now there are good football players that can fit into either one, but I think it allows everyone a chance to maybe visualize what we're looking for."

Payton said he did plenty of homework on new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan before making the hire a couple of days ago to replace the fired Steve Spagnuolo.

"I know this, and not having really spent any time with Rob prior to this process beginning, I did a lot of research on him and spoke to almost everybody that I know that's ever been with him and a ton of other people with different organizations," Payton said. "Number one, I know he's passionate about the game. I know he's very intelligent and players love playing for him.

"He's a very loyal guy. All the coaches I've spoken to that he's worked with have all said he's done a great job of putting together defenses and understanding strengths and weaknesses of his team. He was always difficult for us to prepare for in the times that we've competed against him.

"I'm excited about it. I sat in Dallas for most of the past year and for most of the suspension and I watched almost every Cowboy game just because it was one of the local games. ... I thought considering the injuries that they had this year, I thought they played well defensively and at times broke down."

Payton also said the read option offense is at the top of the study list during offseason preparation. He said it's not going anyway any time soon and it's all over the NFC.

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Jonathan Vilma saw Frank Gore’s ability up close in high school

New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma goes way back with 49ers running back Frank Gore – back to their days at Coral Gables (Fla.) High even before they were teammates at the University of Miami.

So Vilma knows Gore’s frustration over wandering in the NFL netherworld for the first six years of his pro career. As Vilma and Giants safety Antrel Rolle and onetime Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey – all Miami alums – won Super Bowl rings, Gore didn’t even sniff the playoffs.

That makes this week’s trip to the Super Bowl even sweeter, in some ways.

“It was really tough for him, with all his compadres from UM having team success in the NFL,” Vilma said in a phone interview today. “Frank had been to the Pro Bowl a few times, but he was tired of hearing how good he was and how terrible the team was.

“These last two years have been great for him – he finally got a taste of what it’s like to be a contender. I’m happy for him. He’s truly enjoyed the last two seasons. It’s invigorated him a little bit.”

Vilma, a three-time Pro Bowl selection perhaps best known for his involvement in the Saints bounty scandal (and his subsequent lawsuit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell), helped New Orleans win the Super Bowl after the 2009 season. That almost highlighted San Francisco’s struggles for Gore; the 49ers were 37-59 in his first six seasons, from 2005 through ’10.

“He was happy for me, of course, but it’s one of those things where it’s like, ‘When is it my turn?’ ” Vilma said. “Now he finally has a chance.”

It didn’t take long for Vilma, who was one year ahead of Gore in school, to learn about the running back’s ambition. Soon after they met, before Gore’s sophomore season at Coral Gables, a soon-to-be-senior running back began spouting off about his anticipated turn as the starter.

“The guy was bragging about how he couldn’t wait to run the ball,” Vilma said. “Frank didn’t talk a lot, but I remember him looking at the guy, like, ‘You don’t really know what’s coming.’ I could tell Frank’s fiery, competitive nature.

“He didn’t say much until we got in pads – and then he lit it up. He was legit from the start. Needless to say, he took the guy’s starting spot. No one knew who Frank was, but he just had that look.”

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Judge tosses Jonathan Vilma's defamation lawsuit against Roger Goodell

A New Orleans federal judge has dismissed Jonathan Vilma's defamation lawsuit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, thus bringing a close to nearly all of the legal action in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.

Judge Helen Berrigan found Vilma's claims, and the evidence to support them, to be insufficient and upheld Goodell's right to investigate conduct detrimental to the league under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

But Berrigan took a swipe at Goodell's initial investigation and the pall the entire situation placed over the Saints' season.

"While the Court is extremely disturbed by the fundamental lack of due process in Goodell's denying the players the identities of and the right to confront their accusers, that was substantially rectified later in the process," Berrigan wrote. "So while the process was initially procedurally flawed, the statements were ultimately found to have enough support to defeat the defamation claims."

Vilma was initially suspended for the entire season. Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who heard the players' appeals after Goodell upheld his own decision, vacated all of the suspensions of the players involved. But Tagliabue confirmed Goodell's factual findings a bounty program had been in place.

"We are obviously disappointed, strongly believe that the CBA does not give anyone -- including a commissioner -- a license to misrepresent and to manufacture facts, especially at the expense of another person's reputation, and are considering our options," said Peter Ginsberg, Vilma's attorney.
The Saints, without head coach Sean Payton for the entire season as well as interim coach Joe Vitt for the first six games, went 7-9. It was their first losing season since 2007.

"Even though this matter has been pending only since May of this year, it feels as protracted and painful as the Saints season itself, and calls for closure," Berrigan wrote. "The Court nonetheless believes that had this matter been handled in a less heavy handed way, with greater fairness toward the players and the pressures they face, this litigation and the related cases would not have been necessary."

The only pending legal action left pertaining to the bounty case is a class-action suit filed by a Saints season-ticket holder, who is claiming the value of his tickets was affected by the bounty case. The league has filed a motion to dismiss that suit as well.

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Jonathan Vilma upset with anonymous Saint's ripjob

An anonymous New Orleans Saints player told The Times-Picayune on Tuesday that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo should be fired. And that was one of the nicer things the player said about Spagnuolo.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is not amused. He's upset with the player and the newspaper for running the story. Vilma called the anonymous source strategy "B.S" on Twitter, then told the newspaper why.

"I'm bothered you reported it," Vilma said. "We're not the Jets, who run to the media for everything."

Vilma was asked if the player's comments about Spagnuolo's poor coaching and rough management style were wrong.

"That's not the question or the point," Vilma said. "If he's man enough to tell you, he should be man enough to put his name on it. And you should do the same."
A lot to digest here. A few thoughts:

1. Vilma not speaking to the accuracy of the statements says volumes about Spagnuolo. Here's what the anonymous player said about why no displeasure had surfaced until now.

"Trust me, all the guys were being politically correct this season when answering questions (this season)," the player said. "It's bad."

2. You have to respect Vilma's strong stance on the matter. He's not only upset with the player but the journalistic practices. A lot of people within the media agree with Vilma when it comes to anonymous sources.

3. It's comical that Vilma says, "We're not the Jets," and everyone knows exactly what he means.

4. Perhaps this is cynical, but we can't help but think Vilma's reaction was in part to let everyone know he wasn't the anonymous player.

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Jonathan Vilma ends turbulent season with his best game

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma didn't even let someone finish the question when he was asked Sunday if he couldn't wait for next season after the chaotic 2012 season he endured saying, "God, yes. Yes, very much so."

You would be hard pressed to blame him.

Twice Vilma faced season-long suspensions for his involvement in the alleged Saints bounty program, including accusations of placing $10,000 bounties on Kurt Warner and Brett Favre during the 2009 playoffs. And twice the suspensions were vacated as Vilma played in all 11 games he was eligible to play in after beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list with a knee injury.

Maybe more important, Vilma never missed a paycheck and would have missed out on a year's pay had the NFL's original punishments stood in place.

Vilma wrapped up his season by leading the Saints with eight total tackles in the Saints' 44-38 loss to Carolina on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. His 18-yard interception return for a score off Cam Newton gave the Saints a 14-10 lead in the second quarter. It was the second pick-six of Vilma's career.

Vilma admitted after Sunday's game how much of a toll it took on him to endure the bounty scandal since the league first announced its findings in March.

"It's draining, but it's not an excuse," Vilma said. "You've got a job to do on Sundays. You have to prepare during the week, speaking about myself. That's not an excuse. Yeah, it was draining. You fly right after a game just to go up to D.C. and sit there for hours in hearings and things like that. As far as the rest of the defense, I would hope that it didn't affect the guys. I really tried to make it a point not to make it their issue. It's my issue, mine and Will's. I really hope it didn't affect them on Sundays."

Vilma seemed more upset with the way the defense played against Carolina allowing 44 points and 530 yards of total offense in the loss.

"It was very disappointing to lose the way we lost today," Vilma said. "I'm disappointed in my team the way we lost composure at the end. ... That starts with the leadership. That starts with the captains. I should have found a way to get my team under control. Unfortunately, it cost us. It cost us big. ... Some games we'll play lights out. Other games, we gave up 44 points and Lord knows how many yards."

Vilma was blunt when asked about the 2012 Saints defense setting the mark for the most yards allowed in a single season. "You get what get what you deserve," he said. "When you don't play good defense, that's what happens. Be a man and suck it up."

Age, health and his hefty salary cap figure may play a role into whether the Saints keep Vilma on the roster. Vilma has dealt with a lingering knee injury the past few seasons which is why he started the season on the PUP list. His salary cap figure for 2013 is also around $8.6 million, which could make him a cap casualty if he doesn't take a paycut.

"It's going to be whatever Mickey (Loomis) and Sean (Payton), what they decide," Vilma said about his future with the Saints. "That's management stuff. I don't get into that. I don't look at that. My job is to perform on Sundays. Hopefully I did a good enough job. Hopefully I will be here next year. If not, hopefully I will be somewhere. I don't know how it's going to work out."

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