Vilma brings leadership back to Saints’ D

Ever since the National Football League announced player suspensions for what it called a three-year bounty program by New Orleans, I’ve said the on-field implications for the Saints weren’t all that significant.

Linebacker Jonathan Vilma was handed a season-long suspension and defensive end Will Smith received an eight-game suspension. Vilma has been the leader of the defense since his arrival in 2008, but knee problems and age really seemed to slow him last season. The Saints went out and signed Curtis Lofton in free agency and I view him as an upgrade over Vilma, at this late stage of his career. Smith is New Orleans’ top pass-rusher, but the Saints could have gotten through those four games without too much trouble. They survived last season when Smith was suspended for the first two games.

But, after hearing Friday’s news that an appeals panel has overturned the suspensions, I’m starting to think having Vilma and Smith back is a huge victory for the Saints and will be significant on the field

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