Mike Triplett | ESPN.com
The New Orleans Saints activated linebacker Jonathan Vilma from the short-term injured reserve list Saturday, making him eligible to play for the first time this season Sunday against the New York Jets.
Vilma was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return in Week 1 after he had an arthroscopic clean-up surgery on his knee during the preseason.
Vilma said that gave him more than enough time to fully recover. He has been back practicing the past two weeks.
“Fortunately I was able to take that long, almost like an extended rehab period. It was definitely for the better,” Vilma said Friday. “Back [in Week 1] of course, I wanted to try to rush and get back. But it was definitely for the better that I now I’m able to come back and able to just go out there and run, run around and get back into football shape, get my angles down and my timing.”
Chances are, the Saints will ease Vilma back in a rotational role — both because he’s been out so long and because veteran David Hawthorne has played so well as his replacement in the starting lineup.
The Saints likely don’t know what to expect from Vilma, a 10-year veteran who has been dealing with knee problems on and off for the past three years.
A three-time Pro Bowler, Vilma hasn’t been in peak form since the beginning of the 2011 season. He was looking good throughout the summer OTAs and minicamps, but the knee started to swell again early in training camp.
“He’s someone who is a quick study, so he knows what we’re doing.” Saints coach Sean Payton said this week, explaining that the team spent time debating whether or not to use their short-term injured-reserve designation on Vilma.
“The uncertainty was the procedure, and yet we felt pretty good after the spring,” Payton said. “I think we spent some time on [the decision]. But I think we really felt like it was important for our team to see this through.”
Vilma, who began his career with the Jets from 2004-2007, said he doesn’t have any extra motivation to play against the Jets in New York for the first time since he was traded in 2008.
Vilma said he and the Jets already played each other in New Orleans in 2009, and most of his coaches and teammates from his time with the team are no longer there. When asked sarcastically if he’d get “misty-eyed” being back in the Jets’ home stadium [which is also new], Vilma said, “Dry tears.”
To make room for Vilma on the roster, the Saints released veteran cornerback Chris Carr.
- Covered Saints for eight years at New Orleans Times-Picayune
- Previously covered LSU football, San Francisco 49ers
- Iowa native and University of Iowa graduate