EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Saints traveled to the New York area Saturday with an extra passenger on their chartered flight after linebacker Jonathan Vilma was activated from the injured reserve/designated for return list.
Vilma, a 10-year veteran, was added to the 53-man active roster and is expected to play for the first time this season Sunday when the Saints play the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
The roster move was hardly a surprise considering Vilma, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-August, was eligible to return for Sunday’s game after returning to practice on Oct. 21.
After being put on short-term injured reserve on Sept. 3, Vilma couldn’t practice for six weeks and could not be activated for eight weeks.
The Saints had until Saturday afternoon to add Vilma to the active roster for Sunday’s game, which was a foregone conclusion when coach Sean Payton said late in the week that Vilma was doing well and getting practice reps.
“It’s just a matter of getting back into football-playing shape,” Payton said after Thursday’s practice. “He’s someone who’s a quick study, so he knows what we’re doing.”
Vilma, a two-time Pro Bowl pick for the Saints, told reporters Friday that he’s ready to contribute.
“I know I’m feeling good running around,” he said, “and I think I look good on film.”
Linebacker David Hawthorne, who has played solidly in Vilma’s absence with 52 tackles and two sacks, likely will start for the eighth game in a row against the Jets — whom Vilma played for from 2004 to 2007.
To make room on the active roster for Vilma, the Saints released cornerback Chris Carr.
Carr, a nine-year veteran who was released by the Saints on the final roster cuts on Aug. 31, played in five games with one interception after being re-signed when cornerback Patrick Robinson was lost for the season with a torn patella tendon in Week 2.
The Saints also said defensive end Tyrunn Walker, who has missed three consecutive games with a knee injury, will not play Sunday. Walker didn’t make the trip despite practicing on a limited basis Thursday and Friday.
Advocate sportswriter Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report.