Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Vilma's availability against Bucs Sunday is uncertain

17

October

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma returned to practice Wednesday, but whether he comes off the physically unable to perform list and plays against the Bucs Sunday remains to be seen.

Vilma, a three-time Pro Bowler who has been immersed in the team's bounty scandal, had his year-long suspension vacated due to a technicality. Though commissioner Roger Goodell has reinstated the suspension, Vilma is appealing, and told WVUE-TV in New Orleans he could come off the PUP list Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer, on a conference call with Tampa Bay media Wednesday, said Vilma was practicing and looked good, and didn't rule out his return. Vilma has also been dealing with a left knee injury.

"We're going to have to see at the end of the week how we feel about it," Kromer said. "There's always a need to put Jonathan Vilma on the field if he's the Jonathan Vilma we remember, that we all know flies around the field and makes every tackle that's near him. So if he's ready, he'll be ready to go back out there."

Vilma's return could be a boost to the struggling Saints defense, which has allowed a league-most 456 yards per game and 30.8 points per game. As Bucs guard, and former Saint, Carl Nicks said, "He's like the Drew Brees of that defense."

Kromer said while the Saints are off to an unexpectedly rough start (1-4), they're dealing with an "unprecedented situation," a bounty scandal that has cost them several players, as well as coach Sean Payton, for the year. And Kromer said the team is feeling refreshed after a bye week, and victory over the Chargers.

"This building never gets pulled apart, no matter what happens to us," Kromer said.

-- JOE SMITH
joesmith@tampabay.com

[Last modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 4:06pm]

    

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