After the 2007 season, some were wondering if MLB Jonathan Vilma's best days were already behind him. He played in only seven games in '07 after suffering an injury to his right knee, had a chronic condition in that knee and didn't fit well in the Jets' 3-4 defense, so they sent him away to the Saints. Anyone who thought Vilma wouldn't thrive again was wrong, though. He led the team with 132 tackles last season and, after exploring other opportunities in free agency during the offseason, he re-signed with New Orleans and returned to lead them in tackles again with 110. The sixth-year veteran is preparing to play in his first Super Bowl on Sunday and discussed the matchup with the Colts with the media on Tuesday.
Q: How well are the Saints handling all the hype that comes with the Super Bowl?
A: We're handling it well. We have guys like myself with cameras, we are enjoying taking pictures, but at the end of the day it's football. We understand it's football with a little more media hype and a little more around the game — it's a huge game, it's a very important game. But outside of this, we'll get back to practicing, watching film, the whole nine.
Q: Do you think the Colts have an advantage in this game because they played in the Super Bowl in 2007?
A: It's only an advantage if we let them make it an advantage. We're not going to sit here and be awestruck about what's going on, about the media. We have to lock in and really get ready for Peyton Manning and the offense, and Drew (Brees) is getting ready for the defense. All of this is really what the Super Bowl is about — you have to be able to adjust and handle these distractions.
Q: Were you hoping to face your former team, the Jets, in this game?
A: I was hoping — not for bad reasons, though. I watched their season and I still have a lot of friends there on the team. I was really hoping because two years removed from being with those guys, they deserved it. I felt like they were playing real good ball at the end, had a real good stretch really playing some good defense, especially. I was hoping they'd go. I would have been excited for them.
Q: You and your teammate Jeremy Shockey won a national championship when you both played at Miami. Have you talked about winning another title together?
A: We talked about that a little bit at the beginning, and we said, 'We're back at it again.' This is our first time, obviously his first Super Bowl, my first Super Bowl, and this is an exciting moment for us. But it only becomes a special moment if you win. We felt that way when we were playing in the Rose Bowl against a good Nebraska team. We felt like it was a special moment for us, but it's only special if you go out there and you take care of business."
Q: Did having a college teammate like Shockey in New Orleans help ease the transition when you were both traded to the Saints before the 2008 season?
A: It definitely was [helpful]. It's funny, we had similar situations — he got hurt, I got hurt, he got traded, I got traded — and we've just been making the most of it since. It felt like we were a little slighted. I know that he had a lot more controversy coming from New York to New Orleans, but it's been really good for us just to be able to relate. The situations were similar, and we've just been excited about being down here and winning games."
Q: You were born in Haiti and you've been involved in the earthquake relief effort. Will you be continuing those efforts after the season?
A: In general, my intentions are to go down there and be productive. You hear a lot of people just going down and saying, 'Look at the devastation,' and that's what they're reporting back. Well, that's a given. That's obvious. I want to go down there and help, whether it be to clear out the devastation, try to help build homes, whatever it is I want to go down and not just look around and say it's a sad situation.
Q: When you look back at your time with the Jets, what are your thoughts on them trading you?
A: I said when I was leaving that I had a real good time up there. I really enjoyed playing up there in New York. I enjoyed the fans; I really enjoyed my teammates. I still keep in touch with my ex-teammates. So leaving, I just felt like it was part of the business. It was a situation where I didn't fit the system, whatever anyone could speculate. It didn't really bother me because I knew I was coming here, I was wanted down here and I was coming to a situation that was good.