User ID
  Forgot User ID
or Register Today!
Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us on Google+ VI Mobile Scores and Betting Odds
Betting Tools

Vilma says he's in his best shape in years

METAIRIE, La. (AP) - Although the bounty scandal is now behind Jonathan Vilma, so are nine punishing NFL seasons.

The Saints linebacker and longtime defensive captain appreciates that many will wonder if he's lost a step after 870 tackles since turning pro in 2004, not to mention several knee procedures in the past two years. Vilma responds confidently to the skepticism, saying his rehabilitation is complete, and that he is in his best physical shape in years.

``Physically, I'm very good, a lot better than last year,'' Vilma asserted. ``I'd be stupid to say I feel as great as when I was a rookie. Of course not. I do feel able to run and do all the things that I was able to do back in 2010. ... I just needed a little time (to rehabilitate) that I didn't get last year because of everything that was going on.''

Indeed, a year has made a big difference in many aspects of Vilma's life. Last summer, while fighting his bounty suspension in federal court, he testified that damage to his reputation hurt his ability to raise money for business and charity endeavors.

Now, not only does he believe his football career is back on track, he is also expanding his business interests. Already an investor in multiple restaurants and bars, Vilma spoke said he prepared for Thursday's launch of his new venture involving a smartphone application catering to bars and club patrons. The launch coincided with reporting day for Saints training camp.

``I've been fortunate to play football and make a living out of it, but business has always interested me,'' said Vilma, who majored in finance at Miami, and whose new venture is called BarEye.

This season, meanwhile, should provide a clearer picture of how long Vilma can expect to remain in the business of playing football.

Vilma, 31, missed five games in 2011 with a left knee injury, then had several surgeries and 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 the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez.

Even as he went to such lengths, Vilma said his rehabilitation was hindered by the league's bounty investigation, which named him as the ringleader of a program that paid improper cash bonuses for hard and even injurious hits. Vilma initially received a full-season suspension, which banned him from Saints facilities during much of the offseason and training camp.

Vilma maintained he would never intentionally injure fellow players, and that the bonuses were similar to incentives NFL players league-wide had offered teammates for years.

During a lengthy appeal, he was reinstated in Week 1 of the regular season, but placed on the physically unable to perform list before finally playing on Oct. 21.

With Curtis Lofton in his old middle linebacker spot, Vilma played outside linebacker in 11 games, recording a career-low 37 tackles.

Now he must adapt to new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's scheme, which features a switch from a 4-3 alignment (four linemen, three linebackers) to a 3-4. When Vilma last played in a 3-4 for the New York Jets in 2007, it did not suit him. He was traded to New Orleans in 2008, where he thrived in a three-linebacker formation.

Vilma said this time will be different because Ryan's scheme is flexible enough to capitalize on players' strengths.

``What I like about Rob is he's saying, `I don't want to limit you by putting you in a stagnant 3-4,''' said Vilma, who is expected to play weak side middle linebacker, with Lofton on the strong side. ``It's about: Let's get after it, be aggressive. Let's be fast.''

Vilma noted that in former coordinator Gregg Williams' defense from 2009-11, the Saints often pulled out of their basic 4-3 and blitzed out of a 3-4.

Ryan studied film of those seasons and brought back some of those schemes.

``He told us, `I'm not going to mess with you guys. I know what you guys do well and what you don't do well, so I'm going to put you in a situation that makes you look good,''' Vilma said. ``Hopefully it turns out that way.''

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2016
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

David: Total Talk - Week 7
Rogers: Pick Six - Week 7
Roberts: SNF - Seahawks at Cardinals
Rogers: MNF - Texans at Broncos
Akins: Gridiron Angles - Week 7
News: SuperContest Picks - Week 7
Mejia: NFL Week 7 Essentials
Marshall: Tech Trends - Week 7 Best Bets - Week 7
Why Buy Picks From
NFL Pro Football Handicapper Sports Picks Records
NFL Hot Streaks
7-1 L2 Sundays, 25-12 NFL Run
12-3 G-Play Run, +1,115 TY
8-1 Last 9 NFL Guarantees
8-1 L9 Totals, 11-4 L15 Selections
8-3 NFL Last Sunday
7-1 L8 G-Plays, 11-5 Totals TY
4-0 Record Last Sunday
9-3 L12 G-Plays, 3-1 L4 Mondays
15-7 Last 22 NFL G-Plays
3-0 NFL Week 6 Record
6-1 Thursdays TY, 11-6 L17 GPlays
5-2 Last 7 NFL Guarantees
3-0 Record L3 NFL Totals
8-3 Last 11 Guaranteed Plays
7-2 L9 Over/Under Plays
3-0 L3 Thurs., 7-3 L10 Picks
NFL Pro Football Expert Picks - San Diego Chargers at Atlanta Falcons
Money Leaders
Handicapper Money
Pat Hawkins + 1115
Chip Chirimbes + 402
The Gold Sheet + 347
Last Week's Leaders
Handicapper Money
Micah Roberts + 450
Bruce Marshall + 364
Dave Cokin + 300
Percentage Leaders
Handicapper Pct
Pat Hawkins 61 %
Michael Black 58 %
Chip Chirimbes 56 %
Guaranteed Leaders
Handicapper Money
Pat Hawkins + 960
Chip Chirimbes + 565
Greg Smith + 395
Over-Under Leaders
Handicapper Money
Paul Bovi + 562
Kevin Rogers + 480
Pat Hawkins + 370
Member Leaders
Handicapper Money
Kevin Rogers + 720
Gary Bart + 544
Mark Franco + 395
corner graphic
With a VI Gold Membership, you can SAVE 10% off a Live Odds subscription, SAVE 20% off Daily Pick packages, and receive access to up to 1,000 Member Plays each month!
VI Gold Membership