Jonathan Vilma: Veteran LB Will Provide Emotional Boost for Saints in Week 7

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistOctober 20, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 16:  Jonathan Vilma of the New Orleans Saints watches on from the sidelines during their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 16, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints have been without their defensive leader this season, but Jonathan Vilma will play in Week 7.

Here's what ESPN's report had to say regarding Vilma's status:

Vilma is expected to play between 20 to 30 snaps, two team sources told ESPN's Ed Werder. Sunday might be the only chance for Vilma, who is recovering from a knee surgery, to get back on the field this season if his bounty suspension, on appeal, winds up going back into effect in about a week or so.

Vilma knows that this could be his only chance to play, meaning he will bring a 110-percent effort while he's on the field. Because he is the Saints' emotional leader on defense, expect his team to play harder than normal.

He may not be completely healthy. ESPN mentions that Vilma had "several offseason procedures done on his knee, which had slowed him last season and sidelined him five games." However, he will get by on emotion and adrenaline when he needs too.

Vilma, despite his recent troubles, is a tremendous talent. He has six seasons of 100-plus tackles in his career, using his speed and instincts to consistently hunt down the ball. With 11 career interceptions, he's also solid in coverage.

The Buccaneers are a great opponent for Vilma to make his return against. Coming in at 2-3, it's a perfect chance to New Orleans to continue its momentum from its victory over San Diego in Week 5.

On top of that, Tampa Bay struggles mightily on offense. A 38-point outburst versus the Chiefs last week says otherwise, but Kansas City isn't a stiff challenge either.

The Saints need someone to rally behind. If Vilma only plays one game this season, they will want to make it a good one. Bringing their best possible performance is a must because the defense will have its best personnel on the field.

Don't expect Vilma to play the whole game, but he will make the difference against a weak offense. He will be ready to go, as he's been waiting all season for this moment to arrive.

New Orleans finally got its first taste of victory two weeks ago. Adding Vilma to the fold couldn't come at a better time, and the three-time Pro Bowler will have his unit fired up when they step on the field.