NEW ORLEANS (AP) - While linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith prepare to challenge their suspensions, the Saints finally are able to start planning for next season, knowing their defense, although hurt, won't be decimated.
When the NFL first announced on March 2 that as many as 27 current or ex-Saints participated in a cash-for-hits bounty program, seemingly most of the New Orleans regulars on defense faced potential suspensions.
Instead, only two current Saints have been sanctioned. Vilma is slated to miss the whole season, and Smith's four-game suspension allows him to participate in training camp, as well as the final 12 regular-season games.
Saints right tackle Zach Strief says Vilma and Smith will be missed, but New Orleans has players ready to pick up the slack.