METAIRIE, La. — The Saints have placed linebacker Jonathan Vilma on injured reserve after the veteran played in just one game following activation from the IR/Designated to Return list.
Vilma saw just 12 snaps in this past Sunday’s 26-20 loss to the Jets, the team that drafted him out of the University of Miami. He finished with one tackle.
Saints officials, including coach Sean Payton, didn’t comment on any transactions during the day’s news conferences. Vilma was not in the 45-minute locker room period open to reporters.
Vilma’s spot on the 53-man roster was filled by defensive back Chris Carr, who was released on Saturday when the linebacker was brought up to the active roster.
The linebacker had been bothered by a balky left knee since the middle of the 2011 season. He had multiple surgeries on it, including an arthroscopic procedure in August that forced him onto the IR/Designated to Return list.
Carr, meanwhile, had been told that the Saints were interested in eventually bringing him back. He just didn’t know when.
“But at that point, you don’t know exactly what to believe,” Carr said. “I was hopefully going to be back sooner than later because it’s a little disheartening when you get released.”
For Vilma, it’s possibly the end to a 10-year run that included three Pro Bowl berths and the Associated Press AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honor in 2004. In six years with the Saints, he had 314 tackles, six forced fumbles, six interceptions and eight sacks.
Vilma was a key cog in the Saints’ Super Bowl-winning defense in 2009 that was second in the NFL in takeaways with 39.
Former Saints linebacker Scott Shanle, who played with Vilma from ’08-’12, tweeted shortly after the move was announced, saying, “…my 1 request is saints fans remember him as 1 of the greatest all time saints & leader who made us champions!”
The past two seasons, however, weren’t his happiest.
He spent much of the 2012 offseason battling the NFL over a role the league believed he played in the alleged bounty program run by the team from 2009-11. He was suspended during the offseason, but never missed a game due to the suspension. He began the 2012 season on the physically unable to perform list, returning for the team’s 35-38 win at Tampa Bay.
And this year, after participating in the initial phase of training camp, he missed practice six times in a stretch of eight sessions. He eventually had surgery and went on the IR/Designated to Return list.
His presence will be missed on the field, but likely not in the locker room. Being on IR, he’ll still be around the facility and the defensive meetings, helping point out
“He knows everything,” safety Roman Harper said. “He knows the heartbeat. He knows all the players individually. He’s really led this team. ... We’ve been up there at the top together. We’ve always got that. No one can ever take that from us.”
For Curtis Lofton, Vilma was as much teammate as coach. Being on the sideline this season while rehabbing to return from the preseason knee procedure, Vilma was able to give suggestions to Lofton.
“The thing about JV is he’s very cerebral,” Lofton said. “Just like having a coach in there. He sees stuff I don’t see because I’m playing. He sees the whole picture.”