When the New Orleans Saints placed linebacker Jonathan Vilma on season-ending injured reserve last week, coach Sean Payton stressed the impact Vilma has made on the Saints. Payton called him one of the "all-timers" to coach.
"Give me as many Jon Vilmas as you can," said Payton.
That level of respect made the decision to sideline Vilma for the season even more difficult but a conclusion the 10-year linebacker understands.
"It was a situation where during the process I was progressing really well," Vilma said at his celebrity servers event on Monday. "Was I good enough to go out and play? Yes. Was I my normal self? Maybe, maybe not. Sean called me in and we talked about it. He felt I wasn't playing at my normal level and that's fine. I want to be where I am back and they say 'look, he hasn't missed a beat.' Sean felt the same way. It was something where it could take four or six weeks to get back (to full strength) but we just didn't know. It was a tough decision."
Vilma only played one game this season against the Jets on Nov. 3 after missing the first seven games on reserve injured (eligible to return).
Vilma said despite being on injured reserve, he still plans to contribute to the Saints this season.
"I am a competitor so I always want to play and do whatever I can to help the team," said Vilma. "So whether I'm playing or not playing, I am going to find a way to help the team. It's tough to hear the news that you're done for the year so I have to find other ways to help the team out. Your first instinct is to want to play but even though I can't play I am going to lead in different ways. "
As a Saint, Vilma has started in 68 of 70 games played over five years. The three-time Pro Bowl selection has posted 530 tackles, eight sacks, six interceptions, seven fumble recoveries and five forced fumbles during that span.
The University of Miami alum has been voted by his teammates as a defensive team captain for the past four campaigns.
Vilma said he doesn't know what his future holds and isn't thinking about anything past this season.
The 31-year old linebacker says he is working on a plan to help the Saints while sidelined for the remainder of the season.
"That's something I have been trying to figure out these past few days," said Vilma. "I want to put a plan together. It can't just be 'well I will help here and maybe there.' You really aren't helping at that point. It has to be really thought out. I need to figure if and where I can help the team. That's still something I am working on. I know Sean wants me there all the time. Joe Vitt and Rob Ryan want me there. We just have to come up with a great gameplan."
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