|Linebacker Jonathan Vilma said he was a bit rusty against Doug Martin and the Buccaneers in his first game this season. He's hoping to play more snaps Sunday against the Broncos. (US Presswire)|
Saints LB Jonathan Vilma talked Friday for the first time this week. Although he declined to discuss anything related to the bounty suspension, he was more than happy to talk about his first action of the season against Tampa Bay and what he expects Sunday in Denver.
Vilma played 18 downs against the Bucs -- 25 percent of the defensive snaps. He did not make a tackle, but he had a deflection and caused a near interception by pressuring QB Josh Freeman in the first quarter.
“I felt a little rusty, especially with the new defense, getting used to some of the new guys on the team and not being around them,” Vilma said. “I didn't get a chance to practice in OTAs or training camp or preseason, so for me this is a crash course in everything. Defense, my guys, playing, getting into shape.”
Every game he plays is a bonus for Vilma and the Saints. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for the season for his role in the bounty scandal, but thanks to the appeals process and his faster-than-expected recovery from a lingering left knee injury, he has a two-week window to play before his final appeal is heard Tuesday.
He relished the opportunity against Tampa Bay.
"It's a great feeling,” he said. “The best feeling is that we won. Aside from all the other stuff going on outside of football, it was just really good to get our second victory. We're starting to play a little bit better. We're definitely playing a lot harder with a lot more conviction, and it shows on the field.”
Vilma hopes to stay on the field much longer against Denver. After playing exclusively at middle linebacker in his first four years with the Saints, he played only in the nickel package against Tampa Bay because free-agent pickup Curtis Lofton has locked down the starting MLB spot.
Most teams use the nickel to defend Denver's no-huddle offense, so Vilma could be in for long stretches.
“As long as you get me out there, I'll find a way to make some plays,” he said. “I'm dead serious. Unless they take me out, I'm staying in.”
That's the good news. The bad news is having to face Peyton Manning.
“I don't know if he's an old friend,” Vilma said, repeating the words of a question. “He's certainly given me a lot of headaches.”
Follow Saints reporter Guerry Smith on twitter @CBSSaints.