A bye week is supposed to be a boost for a any team. The return to work for the New Orleans Saints comes with another uplifting event.
Linebacker Jonathan Vilma returned to practice Wednesday to solid reviews. He spent the first six weeks of the season on the PUP list due to a knee injury and missed five games. The Saints have not activated Vilma from the list and have a roster exemption on him for up to three weeks if needed.
"The fact he was out there practicing today kind of puts a smile on everybody's face knowing what he has gone through," Saints quarterback Drew Brees noted.
What Vilma has gone through is actually on-going. He is once again appealing a season-long suspension for his alleged involvement in what the NFL call as a pay-to-injure scheme run by the New Orleans defense during the previous three seasons. Until appeals are heard next week, Vilma and teammate Will Smith are able to play. Smith faces a four game ban.
"It brought some extra energy to the practice. Guys are excited to see (Vilma) back," said Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins.
The question now is what else can Vilma bring to the table for what has been a lackluster defense in 2012. until they make a decision whether to play him Sunday at Tampa Bay. Interim Saints head coach Aaron Kromer was noncommital on whether Vilma will be activaed to face the Buccaneers.
"When we can get (Vilma) on the field, we will get him on the field. We would love to have him out there," Kromer noted in his Wednesday press conference.
A healthy Vilma could play at any of the linebacker spots including his natural position in the middle where the Saints start Curtis Lofton, the team's steadiest linebacker. Lofton could also play on the outside in the New Orleans 4-3 defensive alignment.
"I'm thinking he is. ... I know he wants to play," said Saints linebacker Jonathan Casillas about Vilma. "All the linebackers, defenders, we want him to play."
Meanwhile, the injury report Wednesday included three Saints who did not practice including tight end Jimmy Graham. It remains to be seen if an ankle injury will keep the third year potential All-Pro out of action Sunday.
Wednesday Saints Injury Report:
DNP: TE Jimmy Graham (rt ankle), LB David Hawthorne (rt hamstring). LB Scott Shanle (ill),
Limited: CB Jabari Greer (groin), OG Jahri Evans (toe)
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