METAIRIE, La. – Saints acting head coach Joe Vitt has pledged to back linebacker Jonathan Vilma during Thursday’s temporary restraining order hearing.
Quarterback Drew Brees, however, plans to be at the Saints headquarters all day for the first full practice day of training camp.
Both filed affidavits in defense of Vilma, who was suspended for the entire 2012 season by league commissioner Roger Goodell for what was allegedly a leadership role in a bounty program the NFL says the Saints ran for three years.
“I know Jonathan Vilma’s intent,” Vitt said Tuesday on the day Saints players reported to training camp. “I know his work habits. I know his leadership qualities. I know what he means to this team, the leadership qualities that he has. He has always put his team and his teammates first and I stand behind Jonathan Vilma.”
In spite of not being at the hearing at Federal Court, Brees fully backs his teammate since 2008.
For much of the past four seasons, Brees has valued Vilma’s influence on the Saints’ defense, taking the opportunity during practices to match wits with the linebacker’s cerebral play.
Brees and Vilma have credited each other for raising their levels of play.
“I don’t know if you can fill that void or that role,” Brees said. “Vilma was Vilma. He was such a charismatic leader.”
Safety Roman Harper said the team will move forward without Vilma because, as of right now, he’s not with the team.
Vilma was with the team during organized team activities, but because of his knee injury, he didn’t spend any time on the field. That, Harper said, helped the team begin to move on.
But he hasn’t – and won’t – forget Vilma.
“I got his back 100 percent and whatever I can do to try and help him or anything like that I’m all with him,” Harper said. “It’s just been so crazy, so up and down, but trust, me I’ve got his back. And I was in that room so I know what was going on."