Saints’ Vilma cleared for practice

METAIRIE — Suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma will be able to begin practicing with the team on Wednesday, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said Monday.

However, the Saints have until Saturday to decide whether to activate Vilma for Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay.

Even if he does play, Vilma’s time back could be cut short, as his appeal of his season-long suspension in the bounty scandal is scheduled to be decided by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday, Oct. 23.

“John has a ways to go,” Sagnuolo said of Vilma, who has been on the physically unable to perform list all season after undergoing three procedures on his left knee since November. “But we’ve done things trying to figure out how to get him on the field.

“That’s a good problem to have.”

The fates of defensive end Will Smith plus former players Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove also should be settled on Oct. 23, although reported Monday that the four have filed suit in U.S. District Court to vacate the suspensions.

In a TV interview Sunday, Vilma told WVUE: “I’m feeling good. I know the media hasn’t seen much of me in a while, but I’ve actually been working out and training hard so I can get to the point of being able to give our team a chance in Tampa Bay.”

Saints’ interim coach Aaron Kromer, going into his final week in the position, sounded less confident than Vilma or even Spagnuolo about Vilma’s ability to play Sunday.

“Jonathan Vilma loves football,” he said. “And if he can come close to being near able to play, he’s going to say he’s going to be playing.

“That’s just Jonathan Vilma. … We’ll see what happens.”

The Saints (1-4) are coming off their bye week. Tampa Bay (2-3) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 38-10 victory against Kansas City on Sunday.

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