After years of overcoming challenges that threatened his reputation (the Bounty Scandal) and career (multiple knee injuries), Saints veteran linebacker Jonathan Vilma is thinking about his next step when football is over. At 31-years-old, Vilma knows he’s closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning.
“You look at a lot of the older guys, not older guys that just retired. I’m saying 50-years old,” Vilma said. “You look at a guy like Earl Campbell. I want to be able to walk and enjoy the rest of my life and enjoy the fruits of my labor. So, it’s something I have to be very realistic about to myself. Not just the short future: five years from now or ten years from now. But when I’m 50-60 years old, how am I going to able to move and walk?”
But that doesn’t mean Vilma is ready to take hang up his cleats just yet.
Vilma looked as if he’d turned the corner on his problematic knee injury during OTA’s this summer. Then, Vilma tweaked it again, requiring arthroscopic surgery in August.
“I was feeling good throughout the OTAs and that first part of training camp. Then a little awkward something happened in a scrimmage, and as soon as the next day came around and my knee swelled up, I knew something was wrong,” Vilma said. “So I was fine up until that point, then unfortunately I had to get the surgery, and now I’m back to feeling the way I was before. It’s not like ‘Oh man, this is two years in the making.’ I was feeling very good before then, and now I feel back to where I was before the swelling in the scrimmage.”
The Saints placed Vilma on the injured reserve/ designated to return list at the beginning of September.
He could, by rule, play as early as the Saints face off with Jets one week from Sunday. Vilma returned to practice Monday, when the team reconvened after their bye week. Vilma said it was great to be back in action, even if that action was only on the practice field.
“You know, it felt good. I took all the reps with the scout team,” Vilma said. “Naturally, I’m not allowed to play this week but, being able to practice and run around and competing again. I enjoyed myself yesterday. Fortunately the knee held up well, and I’ll be back at it tomorrow.”
Vilma says he’s not too proud or stubborn to let the Saints coaching staff know if his knee isn’t up to the task of returning to pro football, but as of now, he’s confident in his body’s abilities.
“If my knee says no, I told Sean ‘I’ll be honest: my knee’s saying no more, no mas.'” Vilma said. “I’m assuming I’ll be put on IR and go from there. Fortunately, right now it’s not telling me that, and as long as it’s not telling me that, I’m going 100 miles an hour.”
In a surprising move Tuesday, the Saints waived linebacker Martez Wilson, who was, at one point this season, considered to be a key piece of defensive coordinator’s Rob Ryan’s scheme, given his ability to rush from the edge. Wilson has been plagued with ankle and elbow injury issues.
In another interesting roster move, the Saints promoted rookie quarterback Ryan Griffin from the practice squad to the active roster, perhaps given the number of teams recently shopping for new talent under center. The Saints are now carrying three quarterbacks: Drew Brees, Luke McCown and Griffin.