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Payton, teammates react to Vilma going on injured reserve

(AP Photo) (AP Photo)

NEW ORLEANS - Ask Saints head coach Sean Payton about linebacker Jonathan Vilma and he won't hold back his feelings.

"He's been one of the all-timers to coach as far as a standup guy, a guy that prepares and a guy that takes everything he's done in the film room and brings it to the field," Payton said Thursday. "I've said this before, he's been what Drew has been to our offense to our defense.  You're always going to go the extra mile with a player like that."

And that's what made Payton's decision to end Vilma's season that much more difficult. The Saints brought Vilma back from the "injured reserve with designation to return" list last week. Payton said  that it may have been too soon, but he didn't regret the decision.

But after Payton and the coaches saw Vilma play last week against the Jets, it became clear he wasn't progressing enough to be effective. Thus, they moved him back to injured reserve for good.

"He had 12 snaps in the game," Payton said. "It was more an overall just knowing that we have eight weeks left in the season, and is he going to be able to progress enough to where he's comfortable enough, and we're comfortable enough with his progress."

The news surprised Vilma's teammates. Those that have been around him the longest seem to share the same feeling about #51.

"I think Jonathan is a player when you meet him, he's one of those polarizing personalities," said safety and fellow captain Malcolm Jenkins. "He is by far the best leader I've been around"

"I mean I love the guy," said Roman, who, like Vilma, is in the final year of his contract. "He's like an older brother to me and the most respect I've had for any other player and he's a great leader. He will definitely be missed, but you know, next man up we got to continue to keep this rolling. We can't let this hinder us and we can't hold feelings back and all those other things. We'll hug him, we'll give him a kiss on the cheek when we see him."

Payton said neither the Saints nor Vilma have made any decisions about his future with the club. He is scheduled to become a free agent this offseason.

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