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Vilma Eager to Work with Spagnuolo

Posted Feb 28, 2012

Saints Defensive Captain Training in Miami

LB Jonathan Vilma joked earlier this season that he is not a “holiday guy.”

He doesn’t celebrate holidays that much because most of them interfere with his football schedule.

While most New Orleanians were celebrating Mardi Gras last week, Vilma started his offseason training routine in Miami.

“I am not really in a festive mood,” joked Vilma. “Right now, it’s about taking some time to regroup and prepare for next season.”

Vilma said this offseason is much more relaxed and organized compared to last season. Vilma spilt his time between his hometown and in New Orleans for the player-run workouts at Tulane University last year not knowing the status of the 2011 season due to the work stoppage.

“It’s much better this offseason now that we can plan,” said Vilma. “That was the hardest part last season because we couldn’t plan on anything. It was tough because you want to plan your summer out of when and where you are going to train.”

Prior to the 2011 season, Vilma had only missed one game during his Saints tenure – the 2009 regular season finale, as a number of starters sat with the team already clinching the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Last season, the three-time defensive team captain missed five games due to a knee injury.

Despite the injury, he led the squad with three fumble recoveries, one for a touchdown, while adding 67 tackles, (38 solo), one forced fumble and four pass defenses.

“It was tough because I have always been a leader by example,” said Vilma. “I wasn’t able to lead by example while I was hurt. That part was hard and it was an adjustment. I wanted to make sure that if I couldn’t be out there, then my guys were going to be in the best position possible to make plays. I thought they did a good job of stepping in (for me). I am eager to get back out there with a new intensity when I am at full strength.”

Vilma will enter the 2012 season with a new intensity and a new defensive coordinator – Steve Spagnuolo.

Spagnuolo spent the past three seasons as the head coach of the St. Louis Rams after serving as the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants from 2007-2008. Prior to joining the Giants, he served on the Philadelphia Eagles’ coaching staff for seven seasons.

The Spagnuolo-led Rams were the last team to beat the Saints in the regular season on Oct. 30, a game in which Vilma recovered a fumble for a touchdown.

Vilma is eager to work with his new coach as he has “only heard good things about him.”

“I met (Spagnuolo) once when I was in town and we had a good conversation,” said Vilma. “He seems like a really good guy. We are going to have plenty of time in the near future for me to get into and better understand the playbook.

“The best news I get about him is all the things that his former players have said about him, guys like Antonio Pierce and Michael Strahan. These guys go to bat for him and say that he’s really good at what he does. They say that he’s thorough, aggressive and brings the whole package to the table. That’s good to hear knowing that we are going to have an aggressive defense. It should be fun.”