Vilma practices, his Saints' teammates encouraged

Vilma practices, his Saints' teammates encouraged

METAIRIE, La. (AP) As the Saints began their pre-practice stretch on Wednesday, receiver Lance Moore hopped up, looked over at linebacker Jonathan Vilma, and hollered, ``Glad you're back! We missed you!'' while the entire team offered a round of applause.

``Hello!'' Vilma responded with a smile, still seated on the field, one leg pulled over another.

Vilma then did something he had yet to do in 2012: practice.

And it was obvious the Saints were pulling for him to be ready to play this Sunday in Tampa Bay, which might be his only chance to get back on the field this season if his bounty suspension, currently on appeal, winds up going back into effect in a week or so.

``Vilma continues to fight for what's right and a fair process which I think is extremely justified,'' Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. ``The fact that he was out there practicing today, it just kind of puts a smile on everybody's face knowing what he's been through and having the opportunity to get him back.''

Vilma did not work with the first team, but also did not wear any kind of brace or sleeve on his surgically repaired left knee, which has been another obstacle to his return.

``He's back,'' safety Malcolm Jenkins said. ``He's doing a bunch of extra stuff, too, to make sure he's ready as far as conditioning and things like that. But he's ready to play. I know he's been champing at the bit and this is his opportunity this week and I know he'll be ready.''

Vilma had several offseason procedures done on his knee, which had slowed him last season and sidelined him five games. He even traveled to Germany to see a specialist in platelet rich plasma therapy, a relatively new blood-spinning technique also used by Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Vilma's initial season-long suspension was handed down in May and went into effect in July after his initial appeal was rejected. That suspension lasted through training camp before being vacated by a three-member appeal panel that instructed Commissioner Roger Goodell to start the disciplinary process again and clarify his reasons for suspending Vilma and three others - Saints defensive end Will Smith, free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita - in connection with New Orleans' cash-for-hits bounty pool.

Because of his rehabilitation, Vilma was placed on the Saints' physically unable to perform list when his initial suspension was lifted, a move that saved the Saints a roster spot and also prevented Vilma from practicing or playing during the first six weeks of the regular season.

The suspensions were reissued last week and promptly appealed by all four players, with appeal hearings set for next Tuesday at NFL headquarters in New York. Vilma remains suspended for the season and Smith for four games. Hargrove's was reduced from eight to seven games and Fujita from three to one.

Vilma did not make himself available for comment while the locker room at Saints headquarters was opened to reporters on Wednesday afternoon. However, his teammates had plenty to say about how he looked and what it would mean to get him back on the field.

``Having him on the sideline when he wasn't suited up was one thing,'' linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. ``Now, suited up, ready to go, maybe get some plays here and there ... It's definitely good to have him out there. He's always been that energy on the defensive side of the ball that we needed.''

For the past four seasons, Vilma was a defensive captain and starting middle linebacker, making all the defensive calls on the field. Now the Saints have a new defense under first-year coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Vilma has now practiced in the scheme only once, although he has been numerous defensive meetings.

``It's Jonathan Vilma. He's one of best football players in the National Football League. He's an instinctive player and he's been in all the meetings for the entire time he's been on PUP, allowing him to see what's going on, understand the schemes,'' interim head coach Aaron Kromer said. ``All we can do as see as it goes on, but I would expect Jon would come back quickly because he's Jon Vilma. ... He does look healthy.''

Kromer and Spagnuolo have said they can find a spot for Vilma, even if Curtis Lofton remains at starting middle linebacker. Lofton said he also is confident he and Vilma will have good chemistry on the field.

``You can't have too many great football players out on the football field,'' Lofton said. ``You can't have too many leaders and too many communicators on the field at once.

``He's been the leader of the defense,'' Lofton added. ``Having him back out there, seeing his face, seeing him in pads knowing everything he's been through and is going through and worked so hard to come back on the football field, it adds extra energy. Guys are excited and I'm excited to play with him.''

Notes: Three players missed practice on Wednesday, including two linebackers, David Hawthorne (right hamstring) and Scott Shanle (illness). TE Jimmy Graham (right ankle) also was out. ... CB Jabari Greer (right groin) and RG Jahri Evans (left big toe) were limited.


Online: and

Quick Links

Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign CB Orlando Scandrick

USA Today Sports Images

Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign CB Orlando Scandrick

The Redskins seem to love former Cowboys. They signed another one today.

Mike Garafolo of NFL Media is reporting that Washington has agreed to terms with cornerback Orlando Scandrick. The early numbers put the contract at up to $10 million over two years.

Scandrick, 31, has played for the Cowboys since they made him a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. In nine seasons in the league, Scandrick has eight interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

He has been plagued by injuries the last three years. Scandrick was out for the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL. In 2016 he missed four games with a hamstring injury and he finished last season on injured reserve with a back injury. Whether his struggles last year were due to injuries or age remains to be seen.

Scandrick joins Nosh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, and Josh Holsey at cornerback for the Redskins. Holsey is the only natural slot corner in the group and he played very sparingly as a rookie last year. Scandrick likely will fill the slot role until Holsey is ready.

We will see what the signing costs in terms of salary cap impact when we see the details of the contract. The phrase “up to” generally means that there are incentives included in the deal so we will have to see.

In recent years, the Redskins have signed former Cowboys defensive linemen Stephen Bowen, Jason Hatcher, and Terrell McClain.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


Quick Links

We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington


We have ourselves a goalie rotation in Washington

It’s happened. The Caps no longer seem to have a No. 1 goalie anymore, they have a No. 1 and 1a.

That’s right, we have a goalie rotation in Washington.

“There's no sense riding one,” Barry Trotz said after practice on Monday. “[Braden Holtby] is coming back and looking better every game and [Philipp Grubauer] played pretty well for a long stretch so why not have both of them going?”

Grubauer got the start Sunday in Philadelphia and Holtby is slated to get the start Tuesday against the Dallas Stars. After that we will have to wait and see.


Trotz has no layout for which goalie he wants to start and when in the remaining ten games. He is not thinking about each goalie splitting five games or which one he wants to use more.

Nope. Trotz has just one thing on his mind. It is all about who starts the next game, that’s it.

“I think you just go with a guy that's hot at the time and your team feels comfortable with and go from there,” Trotz said.

So where does this leave the goaltending situation when it comes to the playoffs? A goalie rotation is all well and good in the regular season, but he has to have one starter for the postseason, right?

Not necessarily.


When Trotz was asked if he philosophically believed in having one starter for the playoffs, Trotz initially said he would not answer, but then said, “Why don't you ask Mike Sullivan what he thinks.”

Sullivan, of course, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has led his team to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons despite turning to both goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in both seasons.

While Pittsburgh’s goalie rotation was largely based on injury, however, it still provides an example of how using both goalies can work in the playoffs and that seems to be the path the Caps are headed on at the moment.

Said Trotz, “You just have to go with your gut who you think is going to get the job done.”