New Orleans Saints veteran linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been through a lot with the franchise. He anchored a Super Bowl defense, found himself at the center of "bountygate", defended himself vehemently, sued NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and remained a constant positive presence in the Saints locker room.

One thing Vilma hasn't been through (on the field at least) is the revitalization of the Saints defense under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Vilma has been recovering from knee surgery, and as a result, has spent the 2013 season on the injured reserve/desginated to return list.

Many wonder what role Vilma will play upon his return? Will he work his way into the starting lineup? Will he be a backup?

The likely answer is that he won't start, but will certainly play. One thing Ryan has shown in his short time in New Orleans is an affinity for mass defensive substitutions throughout a game, regardless of what an opposing offense is doing.

Judging from Vilma's twitter account, he'll be returning to practice field next week.

twitter/@JonVilma51

Vilma will attempt to shake off the rust with at least one week of practice, and won't play in Week 8 against the Buffalo Bills. By rule, he's not eligible to come off the IR/designation to return list until Week 9, at the earliest.