Checking the injuries that matter most

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma returned to practice for the first time since injuring his knee more than a week ago. Vilma practiced on a limited basis, but it was an encouraging sign that the Saints may have their defensive leader back for Sunday’s game at Jacksonville. The news wasn't nearly as good on some other key injuries. Right tackle Zach Strief (knee), center Olin Kreutz (knee) and tight end David Thomas (concussion) all did not practice. That means it’s likely Charles Brown will start at right tackle and Brian de la Puente at center.

Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White missed his second straight day of practice with a thigh injury. This one bears watching. White is one of those guys who sometimes get a day off on Wednesdays. But when he sits out practice two days in a row, you know he’s hurt. If he can’t go against Seattle, the Falcons would have to give more playing time to Harry Douglas, Eric Weems and Kerry Meier. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas (calf) and running back Jason Snelling (concussion) also sat out for the second straight day. The only encouraging development was that cornerback Kelvin Hayden (hamstring) returned to practice on a limited basis.

Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble missed another day of practice with a concussion. If he’s not cleared to play, the Panthers likely would start either R.J. Stanford or Darius Butler.

Bucs linebacker Geno Hayes has been cleared to play this week after suffering a concussion last week. Linebacker Quincy Black, who missed last week with an ankle injury, returned to practice.