Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
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NEW ORLEANS No New Orleans Saints player embodied the team's struggles like linebacker Jonathan Vilma this season.

He began the season on the physically unable to perform list after major knee surgery. He also began the season fighting for his reputation with a defamation lawsuit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Sunday, after the Saints' season came to a close with a 44-38 loss to Carolina, Vilma admitted that everything about this calendar year had been draining.

But he wouldn't blame the season on any of it.

'It was draining, having to fly right after a game just to go up to (Washington) D.C. and sit in for hours on hearings and things like that,' Vilma said. 'As far as the rest of the defense, I would hope that it didn't affect the rest of the guys. I really tried to make it a point not to make it their issue. It was my issue, mine and Will (Smith)'s, so I really hope it didn't affect them on Sundays.'

Vilma spent time in the court room in August as Judge Helen Berrigan heard testimony in his lawsuit.

In November, on the Friday morning after a Thursday night game in Atlanta, he and Smith were in Washington D.C. to hear the bounty testimony of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

While former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue ultimately waived the suspensions of Vilma, Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove, the current Saints linebacker hasn't pulled his defamation lawsuit.

Sunday could have marked Vilma's final game with the Saints, regardless.

He's set to cost New Orleans more than $8.6 million against the salary cap in 2013 and management could cut him to make space. He also could take a pay cut to stay with the Saints, however.

For now, he's not thinking about that.

'It's going to be whatever Mickey (Loomis) and Sean (Payton) decide,' Vilma said. 'That's management stuff. I don't get into that. I never look at it. My job is football on Sundays. Hopefully I did a good enough job. Hopefully I'll be here next year. If not, hopefully I'll be somewhere. I don't know how it's going to work out.'

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