Saints coach Sean Payton said he has no regrets about bringing inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma back from short-term injured reserve for one game before putting him back on injured reserve Wednesday — ending his season.
Vilma, who had arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-August, missed the first seven games before being activated on Saturday for the game with the New York Jets. But after getting just 12 snaps against the Jets, Vilma’s comeback ended Wednesday when he was returned to IR.
“The feeling — on both our parts — was that what he’s used to and accustomed to playing, at a certain speed and a certain level and certainly what we’ve seen, still wasn’t there,” Payton said Thursday. “But he’s progressing.”
Payton noted that Vilma, a 10-year veteran who has been plagued by knee issues in recent years, has not made any long-term decision about his future. One of the more respected players on the team, Vilma was not available in the locker room Thursday during the time it was open to reporters.
“We just had real good dialogue, and obviously difficult dialogue, with a guy that we have won a (Super Bowl) with and has been a great leader in this locker room,” Payton said.
“But make no mistake about it — this was something I’m sure was difficult for him to hear. There are some players that you almost have to pull off the field.”
At the same time, it was easy to tell how tough a decision it was for Payton.
“He has been one of the all-time (favorites) as a coach now as far as a standup guy, a guy that prepares and a guy that takes everything he has done in the film room and brings it to the field,” he said. “I’ve said this before. He has been to our defense what Drew (Brees) has been to our offense. You’re always going to go the extra mile with a player like that.”