From the New Orleans Saints official website.
NewOrleansSaints.com: It's been a busy day around the NFL. How much interest was there in you from other teams?
Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma: "We (my agent, Mitch Frankel, and I) received some calls but it was my intention and hope to return to the Saints. I said during and after the season that I really liked it here in New Orleans and the players that we have. I feel like there's work to be done and I want to be a big part of getting us back to the playoffs and make a run at the Super Bowl."
NewOrleansSaints.com: You said all along that your desire was to return to the Saints. What factored into your decision and why were you so outspoken about wanting to remain a Saint?
Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma: "I think it's important to play for people that are up front and honest with you and that's been my experience with the Saints, beginning with Mr. Benson, Rita (Benson LeBlanc), Mickey Loomis and Coach Payton. They went out and made a trade for me last season and showed me that they wanted and respected me as a player and they worked with me through my rehabilitation process on my leg. I knew the situation regarding the trade and that it was going to be unlikely that I was going to sign with the Saints before the free agency period started. We remained patient and the Saints stepped up and we were able to get something done quickly and I'm very happy about it and look forward to returning."
NewOrleansSaints.com: Gregg Williams, the team's new defensive coordinator, said soon after he was hired that he liked the way you play the game and what you bring to a defense as far as leadership qualities. After the switch was made at defensive coordinator, did you have second thoughts about coming back to the Saints?
Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma: "He (Gregg Williams) has been successful pretty much wherever he has been and has the reputation as an aggressive play-caller. I like that and think he'll bring a new attitude to our approach defensively. When you get to line up and dictate what you are going to do an offense and disrupt what they are trying to do with different looks and schemes, it makes things fun and puts us on the attack."
NewOrleansSaints.com: You came back from a pretty serious knee injury that halted your 2007 season and yet you returned to full strength in 2008. Are there aspects of your game that you are looking to improve on this season?
Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma: "Of course. I'm looking to continue to get better and have spent a lot of time already this off-season studying our opponents on film for next season. I've stayed in shape and will be part of the off-season program that begins later in March and am anxious to get back with the guys and get started preparing for 2009. We all can improve and get better. We can't stay the same, we have to continue to get better, both individually and as a team."
NewOrleansSaints.com: What is it like to switch teams? Obviously change is a constant in the NFL and something you have experienced and done it rather recently. Was it something you thought might happen again?
Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma: "There is always an adjustment period. You have to figure out what the strengths of your teammates are and they have to learn how to play alongside of you. I missed some time early in training camp and that was frustrating at times because that is when you build the foundation, but I paid close attention to what was going on and the transition back to playing full-time was pretty smooth. Was I looking to make a move? No. But I guess you always have to think about it as a possibility."
NewOrleansSaints.com: Head Coach Sean Payton has said a few times that getting some more help for the defense is a priority this off-season, whether it is through free agency or the draft. Last year you saw a number of players on defense lost due to injury, is it fair to think that some of the answers to some of the problems could be in-house right now?
Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma: "We did lose some players on defense, either for short periods of time or for longer stretches and it seemed like we were adjusting here and there quite a bit. Injuries, unfortunately, are part of the game, but getting a good young player like (CB) Tracy Porter back will help and then you have a veteran guy like Mike McKenzie, Charles Grant and a healthy Will Smith will only help make us better. I don't buy into the notion that the whole defense needs to be blown up and start over again. We have some good players here and we know that some new faces might be coming in and it's our job as veterans to get them up to speed and find a way for them to help us win games."
Here are two audio clips of Deke and Bobby discussing Vilma and taking phone calls on Sports Talk.