The Mercedes-Benz Superdome erupted when linebacker Jonathan Vilma led the Who Dat chant this past Sunday. One can only imagine if he emerges from the tunnel out onto the field this season. But how close is it to happening?
There are several factors that have to happen in order for that familiar #51 jersey to see some action on the field. In fact, there are three specific ones that will have to align and happen all together.
First, Vilma will have to be healthy from rehabbing his injured knee that he has been dealing with since last season. After a surgery and an experimental blood-spinning procedure in Germany, he has been slowly coming along.
When asked about the matter, interim head coach Aaron Kromer said that Vilma has been running around well and progressing well physically and hopes he can practice in the near future. This leads to the second factor.
The second factor being that in order for Vilma to begin practicing with the team, he has to come off of the Physically Unable to Perform(PUP) list which the team designated him to be on when his suspension was appealed.
Being on the PUP list requires a player to sit out the first six games of the season and may not practice until then. If the Saints want to, they can still have three more games after that to decide if they want to activate him. They would then be required to either place him on the active roster or put him on injured reserve.
The third factor, which is the ultimate domino that will have to fall, is the decision by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on if he will reinstate the appealed suspensions for Vilma, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove, and Scott Fujita.
The board who overturned the suspensions did say that the pay-for-performance charge is a conduct issue that Goodell does have the right to review and then give out the appropriate punishment.
Goodell is set to revisit the matter again and it was announced on Tuesday that all four players will meet with him in order to present their information in order to avoid being suspended again or at least reduce the suspension if one is given.
The one thing that won’t be a factor is Vilma’s passion to be back in the game and get back to work. His desire to not only vindicate himself through his play as well wanting to show the doubters that he can still perform at a high level won’t be the reason he doesn’t put on a Saints uniform this season.