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Jonathan Vilma Gives a Holla from N’awlins

Posted by Randy Lange on June 18, 2009 – 4:48 pm

One of the themes that I’ve written about as I’ve reconfigured the Jets’ 2009 schedule story on newyorkjets.com for a few other platforms is how many former Green & White draft picks will be playing the team that selected them for the first time this season.

There’s John Abraham down in Atlanta — the Falcons will be coming to the Meadowlands on Dec. 20. Two weeks later, Laveranues Coles and the Bengals come to North Jersey to finish up the regular season at Coles’ former home office. The Jets may get to meet Justin Miller, who wasn’t a Raider when they played at Oakland last year but may be this year when the Jets return to Oaktown on Oct. 25. Chris Baker, now a Patriot, will play his former team twice.

And there’s Jonathan Vilma.

Two years after the Jets traded Vilma, their 2004 first-round selection, 12th overall, to New Orleans, Vilma and the Saints will be greeting the Jets at the doors to the Superdome on Oct. 4.

I always enjoyed talking with Vilma when I was a beatwriter and then for most of 2007 as editor-in-chief of newyorkjets.com. I decided to send him an email to see if he was in a looking-back-looking-ahead mood. I didn’t know if he’d have the time or inclination to get back to me.

But he emailed back. And then one day recently, he gave me a call. I asked him how were things.

"I can’t complain," said Vilma, who signed a new long-term deal this off-season to remain in the middle of the Saints defense. "New Orleans has treated me very well. The environment’s definitely different from New York, a slower pace. It was an adjustment. But here, as I usually do, I just tune a lot of the outside world out. No casino, no Bourbon Street. It’s all football."

I asked Vilma about that contract. He never made noise about redoing his rookie deal, even though he was NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2004, led the NFL in tackles and made the Pro Bowl in ’05 and was named a Jets captain in ’07. As usual, he was humble.

"I was very fortunate," he said. "At one point [in 2007] with the knee injury and all kinds of questions about whether I’d be able to play, you forget the long-term. But the next season, I was able to bounce back from that to perform and perform well. I didn’t miss a snap during the season. It was just like I used to go, back in the day.

"The contract was rewarding. I wasn’t nervous about it, just more anxious. I knew I did as much as I possibly could do on and off the field to fit into New Orleans and be a good leader."

All that being said, Vilma had no bad words to say about his four seasons with the Jets.

"I enjoyed my years up in New York. I still keep in touch with Kerry Rhodes, with Eric Barton even though he left. I keep in touch with a lot of guys. I had fun, good times," he said.

"But it’s still a business. That’s why I never got too high with the highs or too low with the lows. Any minute can change things in just the blink of an eye. That’s what happened when I got injured and the Jets felt I wasn’t a fit for the 3-4 and they wanted to make changes. That was fine with me. I was going to go somewhere and play well. It never really bothered me."

Even though he’s a year removed from the Green Scene, I couldn’t resist asking J-Vil if he would have liked to be turned loose in a Rex Ryan defense. He had only good things to say about his current coach, Sean Payton, but he also checked in with some of his old mates at "the U."

"I’ve heard nothing but good things about Rex," he said. "Ed Reed told me I would’ve loved to play under him, and Ray Lewis said the same thing. Kerry told me he’s a real good guy and so did Shaun Ellis. Timing was everything."

Time will eventually bring Vilma and his old team and a lot of his old teammates into head-to-head competition on a Sunday in early October. How does Vilma feel about this eventual meeting? Again, he gave the perfect answer.

"Drew Brees asked me if I’m going to be extra excited for that game. I said I really don’t know," he replied. "We’ve got you guys pretty early in the season. It’s not like the hype Drew got when we went to London to play his former team [late last October vs. San Diego] and there was added emotion for him.

"By the time the season gets here, there probably will be some extra emotion. Now, well, I left with good thoughts. The fans were good to me. I really can’t complain."

And with that, our conversation was done. Vilma’s one request? "Just tell people to check out my Website. It’s for all Vilma fans … there’s not much Jets stuff anymore."

I always thought www.JonathanVilma.com, a.k.a. "Area 51," was one of the neatest NFL player sites around. If you’d been there before he left and haven’t been back, it has a similar feel and sound, alternately eerie and exotic. One thing, of course, is different, signaled by the ominous black and white words in the intro, "WHO DAT?"

It was fun talking with Vilma. He’s not on our side anymore, but playing against him is the next best thing, and we’ll be doing that in a little less than four months.

Where Christopher Fits In

The newest addition to the Jets’ roster is Brock Christopher, who was a freshman at Missouri when Brad Smith was the Tigers’ record-setting senior QB. He also was a free agent signing by Atlanta right after the draft, but the Falcons waived him on June 3 before the Jets brought him in last week.

The most interesting point about Christopher, though, is that he comes to the Jets as a fullback and long-snapping candidate after playing four seasons of linebacker, the last three as the big-tackling starter at Mike ‘backer, for Mizzou

But before getting to college, he was a standout linebacker and tailback in high school. So you could argue that as a TB and LB, he learned to appreciate the fullback position. He also was the backup snapper at Missouri. He’ll wear No. 32 for the Jets as they head up to Cortland for training camp, which opens exactly six weeks from Friday.

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Posted in Randy Lange | 29 Comments »

29 Responses to “Jonathan Vilma Gives a Holla from N’awlins”

  1. By Schuyler on Jun 18, 2009 | Reply

    Vilma was an awesome player for the green and white, I’m glad he’s having success in New Orleans.

  2. By Ira on Jun 18, 2009 | Reply

    Randy, Good stuff. I am happy for Vilma and he is right , Timing is everything. No way would Rex let a player like Vilma not fit his D. He would’ve made sure he was used [OLB] probably to play in his D. And out of the top 13 picks in the 04 -1st rd only 3 players are not with the team that drafted them. Vilma, Roy Williams, and DeAngelo Hall.

  3. By Ira on Jun 18, 2009 | Reply

    And while i am old school and would like to see players play for the Jets for their entire career its just not realistic anymore. But it will be fun to watch Abe, LC, Miller and Baker. Baker scares me the most. I think he will have a great year for the Pats. Imagine if the Jets and Browns meet in the playoffs? It would be like a Jets Summer Camp Scrimmage. Leave Dearth as the LS. He is money. GO JETS

  4. By Mike the Mechanic on Jun 18, 2009 | Reply

    Hey Randy.
    Heard from a reliable source that the JETS may have a real interest in Burress and the Media has reported the same from Burress. Any insight or thoughts on this? Gotta question his off the field antics, But as a player, hmmmm????????????????

  5. By jake on Jun 18, 2009 | Reply

    i love how you have an article saying fans enjoy mini camp



  6. By Randy Lange on Jun 18, 2009 | Reply

    No, Mike, I’ve got no insights on the Plax situation. Sorry.

  7. By Ira on Jun 19, 2009 | Reply

    I can’t argue with you. Hofstra was so special and it will never have the same feel or be the same. But the new facility is awsome and you should check it out at the end of August. Who knows maybe they will end up at The AHJTC for camp next summer. But i am looking forward to Cortland. It will be something different for sure. They have a great stadium and nice grass fields.

  8. By Ira on Jun 19, 2009 | Reply

    Christopher seems like an interesting player. Nice #’s at Mizzou. Funny how some players just fall thru the cracks and don’t get drafted. The Jets have some good young talent at LB. Between Murrell, Trusnik, Cummings, Renkart, Kobel and now Christopher at least 2 of these guys could make this team. I am very high on Westerman at DE/LB. Can’t wait to see how these guys do in camp. GO JETS!!!!

  9. By Pedro Perrone on Jun 19, 2009 | Reply

    Vilma is a great guy and a player!!! Love to see him tackled players to the field. But i know the experience of HC Rex Ryan on D# will give him strutere to get a great and excelent playbook. This season will be a great season for the Jets. I dont know how is the work of Rex Ryan, but to me dont matter, i know will be beautifull!!! Lets the season start and the Jets will play he never plays before.

  10. By Tony B on Jun 19, 2009 | Reply

    Hey Ira Im old school too Ive been a Jet fan since 1968 Imagine how I felt in 2002 when my son was drafted by the Jets. As a fan you really never to see the business side but make no mistake it is truly a business. Even though my son is with N.E. now I truly wish you guys the best. The guys on the team are the best. P.S. pay Leon

  11. By Howard on Jun 19, 2009 | Reply

    J-Vil was one of my favorite jets players loved his attitude and heart to succeed not just in football but life,green and white 51s were the last jerseys i have bought.hope J-Vil suceeds in n’orleans except against us

  12. By Ira on Jun 19, 2009 | Reply

    Tony B,
    I am sure you’re right about the business part of it. If it was up to me i would have a check for Leon already for him now that Sanchez is signed. I am sure it will happen sooner then later. Good luck to you and your son and i am sure he will have an outstanding season with the Pats. I hated to see him leave the Jets.

  13. By Vaughn on Jun 20, 2009 | Reply

    I hated losing Vilma. The whole situation that transpired is still a grey area to me. Did Vilma quit on his team? Was he hurt or did he just not fit in the 3-4. I still have a sour taste in my mouth after letting him go. Randy, do you know what really transpired with the Vilma situation and why the decision was made to let him go?

  14. By longtimesufferingjatesfan on Jun 20, 2009 | Reply

    cont- neil odonnel. it worked well there and i thik there is alot of promise for it ! think about it ,k.c. under center and brad at wo . or m.s. under center and k.c. at wo. or e.a. at wo ther is endless combinations and no one would know where the ball would be coming from ! you could throw with tottal confidence from behind center in shotgun or from the wideout posation. or hand off from either

  15. By Tony B on Jun 21, 2009 | Reply

    Vaughn J.V. did not quit. Because of his size the 3 4 defense was not a good fit for him. Having to take on offensive linemen shed them and the make tackles was not one of his stronger points.In the 4 3 he s a beast, a tackling machine but taking on a 300 + linemen at about 240 not a good fit but no he did nt quit.

  16. By Ira on Jun 21, 2009 | Reply

    Good article by Lupica today about Plax. Goodell must step up and suspend him for 4 games before some team signs him. What Stallworth got away with is a crime. Plax’s lawyer keeps trying to put off his trial so he can get this season in. Goodell must step in now if he hasn’t already told teams he will be suspended once he signs. Plax learned zero considering he was 28 min late for court.

  17. By Larry on Jun 21, 2009 | Reply

    Vaughn. Vilma,Kendall, no game plan,not utilizing players to their talents,not using players at all, using ineffective players, etc,etc,etc. The sour taste from past 2 years can be explained with 1 word. Mangini.

  18. By ALTOON on Jun 21, 2009 | Reply

    Jets should give up on the Plaxico thing and see what they have to give up to get Marshall in Denver. I know he can be a headache also, but this is a business of winning games.

  19. By Ira on Jun 21, 2009 | Reply

    Tony B,
    Nice break down on why Vilma didn’t fit in with the 3-4 with Eric. I am with you no way would Vilma ever quit. He got hurt in the Benglas game and after they lost that game there was no point to have him play anymore. The season was done and that point and it was better to have him get healthy so they could trade him. Should be a good matchup with Mangold and Vilma.

  20. By DIE4theJets!! on Jun 21, 2009 | Reply

    If you not with us No love…

  21. By Ira on Jun 22, 2009 | Reply

    Rumors have it that Farve has signed with the Vikes. While i was against getting him for the Jets he is a good fit for the Vikes. Even with his Dec #’s the past 5 years in the tank it could turn for him this year if his arm is healed. The Vikes last 8 games have them home indoors for 5 of those games, 1 at Arz,Car, and Chi. So really he has 1 bad weather site for the entire 2nd half.

  22. By briguyinTampa on Jun 22, 2009 | Reply

    Mr. B–much respect for your son. We nicknamed him Baker the Touchdown Maker. Although he didnt have a chance to truely showcase his talents(we felt he has always been underused in the passing game) I think that he will have his opportunities now. I just hope it isnt against us : P Please let him know that the Jets fans in tampa loved him very much. hard worker ready to do work if that makes se

  23. By supercooljetfan on Jun 22, 2009 | Reply

    longtimesufferingjetfan…that had to be one of the worst ideas i have ever read on this website and maybe in my life…if plays like that worked every team would of been doing that from the begining of times

  24. By Pete on Jun 22, 2009 | Reply

    hey guys, dont wanna be picky about the players with character issues but if were gonna go that route we may as well look at Matt Jones…. Hes 26 and starting to blossum at the same time as Plaxico, not to mention we dont have to pay or sacrifice the farm!!!!!!! Who’s with me on this?????

  25. By Ray on Jun 23, 2009 | Reply

    Ira what exactly did Stallworth “get away with”? He worked out a plea deal that was agreed upon by all parties. If even one of the victims family had refused the deal there would have been no deal. Whether anyone likes it or not, he took advantage of his finacial status to work out a deal. Who wouldn’t have done that? He “got away” with nothing, his penalty is spelled out in the plea bargain.

  26. By Row on Jun 23, 2009 | Reply

    Vilma was the heart and soul of our defense. It still gives me tingles when NFL network plays that pregame of Vilma pumping up our defense. Come on guys, do you have to mention the F- word? As for Missouri guys. Rex, you should check out Dedrick Harrington, could be a great LB/ST guy. One player can change everything!

  27. By Tony B on Jun 23, 2009 | Reply

    BriguyinTampa thanks for your kind words and Ill be sure to pass it on.

  28. By Anonymous on Jun 29, 2009 | Reply

    I like what’s on the table for the Jets defense. I believe it’s going to be a violent group on the field. But I have no faith to our receiving cores. Why can’t we sign a big, tall receiver outthere that many team would always worry about facing? I mean buffalo has one on Owens. I know he’s a jerk but opponents will always be weary facing him

  29. By Utahjetsfan on Jun 30, 2009 | Reply

    In response to the post about a big, tall receiver, I don’t know how many other people feel as optimistic as me, but Mario Urrutia, whom the Jets just picked up from Cincinatti, I think has the physical potential of being that guy. I watched some of Louisville’s games when he was in college playing with Brohm and he was physically harassing DB’s every week!Pretty raw but good potential at 6’6 230

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