Sean Payton tight-lipped on Jonathan Vilma’s status for Saints-Jets game

New Orleans Saints inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who practiced last week for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-August, is eligible to be activated from the injured reserve/designated for return list this week.

The Saints have until Nov. 11 to activate Vilma or keep him on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. If they wish to activate him for Sunday’s game with the New York Jets, they must do so by Saturday.

But coach Sean Payton wasn’t saying Thursday if they will bring Vilma back for the game with the Jets, the team he played for from 2004-07.

“He’s doing well; he’s getting reps,” Payton said of Vilma’s progress. “It’s just a matter of getting back into football-playing shape. He’s someone who’s a quick study, so he knows what we’re doing.

“I know he worked very hard at the rehab element of coming back and strengthening his leg. That’s a credit to him. I’m glad we were able to do that. I think that’s a good rule change, something teams can benefit from.”

Back in the swing

Strong safety Roman Harper also is looking to return soon after missing five consecutive games because of a knee injury.

Harper practiced on a limited basis Wednesday for the first time since last playing in Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Bucs and was limited again Thursday. He said he feels good and is “right where I need to be.”

When asked if he’s hopeful or optimistic about Sunday, Harper smiled and said, “All of the above.”

Harper said his timetable for playing in a game was after the bye, which was two weeks ago.

“The coaches and I were on the same page,” he said. “The athletic training staff and everybody. As long as we’re all on the same page, everything is going as we planned. It’s fun. It’s looking up.”

Marques Colston, Kenny Vaccaro back

Wide receiver Marques Colston and safety Kenny Vaccaro returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday after being held out Wednesday.

Colston is listed as having a knee injury. Vaccaro had a concussion and back injury from Sunday’s game with the Buffalo Bills.

For the second straight day, free safety Malcolm Jenkins (knee) and guard Jahri Evans (hip) did not participate in practice.

Also limited were Harper, TE Jimmy Graham (foot), DE Cameron Jordan (ankle), DE Tom Johnson (hip) and DE Tyrunn Walker (knee). Jordan had full participation Wednesday, while Johnson wasn’t listed.

LB David Hawthorne (ankle), WR Kenny Stills (knee) and CB Rod Sweeting (hip) had full participation after being limited Wednesday.

Geno Smith vs. Kenny Vaccaro

After meeting once in college, an epic game in Austin, Texas, last October, Jets quarterback Geno Smith and Vaccaro will square off again Sunday.

Smith and his West Virginia teammates got the best of Vaccaro and his Texas Longhorns, 48-45, in a slugfest before more than 101,000 fans in UT’s Royal-Memorial Stadium. Smith completed 25 of 35 passes for 268 yards with four TDs and no interceptions.

“It was a shootout. … Geno was making a lot of great throws, and we were competing back and forth,” said Vaccaro, who got to know Smith later in a pre-draft visit to Buffalo. “We came out of that game a little sour, but it’s all good. He’s a good dude, man. Great competitor.

“He has a lot of plusses ... he can make all the throws, he’s a competitor, he’s smart,” Vaccaro added. “He’s a young quarterback, just like I’m a young safety. You’re going to make some mental errors and you’re not going to be as crisp as a veteran. Other than that, I see a lot of great qualities in him.”

Novembers to remember

Forty-seven years ago today, the Saints’ franchise was born — appropriately enough — on All Saints Day.

But lately, November has been more like All Saints Month.

Going into the first of four November games against the Jets, Payton has won 11 consecutive games in the month dating to 2009.

Overall, Payton is 17-6 in November games, while the team is 20-8 (he was suspended last November, when they went 3-2) since taking over in 2006.

“We really work hard at trying to make the corrections, even if we’re coming off a game where we won and there are things we need to get cleaned up and corrected,” Payton said of his team’s success. “It probably gets back to the really good Novembers and (having) really good teams.”