But he also made clear that what Vilma was able to do on the field now wasn’t enough.
Payton said that Vilma made the same kind of difference to the Saints defense that quarterback Drew Brees did on their offense.
“That being said, the process that allowed him to go to IR, our decision to do that and then to kind of see if he could get better quick enough to play, I don’t regret. Especially with a player like Jon Vilma,” Payton said, via Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. “Bring me as many Jon Vilmas as you can.”
Payton said the 31-year-old linebacker didn’t have any setbacks, but it was clear that in 12 snaps Sunday, he wasn’t sufficiently recovered from offseason knee surgery to make a difference.
“The feeling on both of our parts was that what he’s used to and accustomed to playing, at a certain speed and a certain level and certainly what we’ve seen, still wasn’t there. But he’s progressing,” Payton said. “It was more of just an overall knowing we’ve got eight weeks left in the season, and is he going to be able to progress enough to where he’s comfortable and we’re comfortable enough with his progress?
“But make no mistake about it — this was something I’m sure was difficult for him to hear. There are some players that you almost have to pull off the field.”
Payton added that Vilma hadn’t made any long-term decisions, but at his age and condition, there are no guarantees Vilma’s future includes playing for the Saints, or anyone.