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Friday, October 19, 2012
Signs point to Vilma's debut Sunday

By Pat Yasinskas

The New Orleans Saints haven’t made any official announcement yet, but signs continue to indicate linebacker Jonathan Vilma will play Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Vilma
Ed Werder reports that Vilma is expected to be added to the active roster and is expected to get about 20 to 30 snaps.

Vilma has been battling a season-long suspension. That currently is in the appeals process, which means he’s eligible to be activated by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday. Vilma has been on the physically unable to perform list for the first six games. He began practicing on Wednesday.

Although three days of practice are all the time Vilma has had in new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defensive scheme, he’s a crafty veteran and has sat in on meetings, so I wouldn’t anticipate him having any trouble picking up the mental part of the game.

The bigger question might be the physical part. Vilma struggled with knee problems last season and had several offseason surgeries. It remains to be seen if he’s recaptured his speed, but it looks like we’ll find out Sunday.

The other question is if Vilma will play his traditional middle linebacker spot. Curtis Lofton was signed as a free agent to play the middle and has been one of the few bright spots of the New Orleans defense this season. The Saints have some injury issues at outside linebacker, so I’m thinking there’s a good possibility Vilma might slide outside.

I don't know if Vilma will be as good a player as he was in the past. But I think the return of a respected leader could provide an emotional lift for the Saints.