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.”