Jonathan Vilma, the most aggressive attacker of the New Orleans Saints bounty program suspensions and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, has been place on the physically unable to perform list. And so, his battle to be reinstated to play this year was overturned on Friday, but off-season knee surgery will not allow him to play for at least five more games.
Vilma, who was called the “ring leader” of the so-called bounty system where players were paid to injury opponents, will be eligible to return after Week 7. The Saints, who will have their bye in Week 6, opted to put Vilma on the PUP list after his roster exemption expired Monday.
Vilma, 30, can participate in team meetings and will be allowed to use the Saints’ training and medical facilities. But the three-time Pro Bowler cannot practice with the team.
Vilma had his season-long suspension overturned Friday by a three-member appeals panel, which ruled that Goodell did not have authority to punish players for any salary-cap violations committed in the Saints’ alleged bounty scheme. Vilma countered with suits challenging Goodell’s authority and said the commissioner’s signaling out of him as a participant damaged his reputation.
Granted the reprieve by the panel, Vilma attended the Saints’ season-opening 40-32 defeat to the Washington Redskins. He did not suit up for that game, but Vilma led the Superdome crowd in a spirited pregame “Who Dat” chant and watched the game from the sideline.
New Orleans sure could have used Vilma’s prowess on defense, as Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III masterfully dissected the Saints’ defense to the tune of 320 yards passing and two touchdowns while giving up 40 points. The Redskins also ran the ball effectively. In short, the Saints’ defense was dominated by an offense that had not shown itself to be that potent in the preseason.