It has been an agonizing last seven weeks for Saints interim coach Joe Vitt. While he was serving a suspension for his role in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, he had to watch as New Orleans’ season started in as bad of a way as anyone could’ve imagined. After a 13-3 season a year ago, the Saints got off to an 0-4 start, including losses to Kansas City and Carolina, before ripping off two straight wins, including a dramatic victory this past weekend in Tampa Bay. Vitt’s suspension is now over, the Saints still have an uphill climb but he will have a chance to try to continue the momentum the Saints have built recently and maybe make an improbable run in the next 10 games.
Joe Vitt joined WWL in New Orleans to talk about the win against the Buccaneers, on the return of Jonathan Vilma, on the hustle play by Malcolm Jenkins, what he thinks of the job his team did in his absence and how tough it was to be away from the game early this year.
On the win against Tampa Bay:
“In the seven years we’ve been here I don’t know that we’ve had a bigger road win than the one we had yesterday. We’re in Tampa Bay, it’s a packed house, it’s crowded, we’re down 14 points, we overcame that deficit twice and the game goes down to the last play of the game. I thought it was great. I thought they played hard, they played together, they’re a committed bunch of players and it was a great win.”
On the return of Jonathan Vilma:
“Jonathan Vilma is a great football player and Jonathan Vilma loves to play football. He gave a great talk to the players Saturday night before the game and he got them really pumped up but he really played well the other day. He only played 15 plays but there was no sign of limping, he’s getting his speed back, he’s getting his range back, he made some good tackles in the game, pressured the quarterback a few times so it was a start. Next week we will see him play maybe between 25 and 30 plays, up his pitch count a little bit and see how that goes. Jonathan Vilma is an outstanding football player who we desperately need from an emotional standpoint that he gives us, the physical standpoint, he’s getting better every week and it’s been great.”
On the hustle play by Malcolm Jenkins to save a touchdown:
“This is my 34th year in the National Football League and I’ve never seen a play like it. For a team to take possession on the one-yard line and have four chances to put it in with three runs and a pass and not get in it was unbelievable. The play that Malcolm made to get Jackson down and then the play that our goal-line defense made I’ve never seen it before. It was a great play.”
On winning the last two games:
“I’m very proud of the team. We started out slow and dug ourselves out of a hole at 0-4 and hey listen in that span of time, there were some games we should’ve won. We should’ve won in Green Bay, we should’ve won in Kansas City and certainly could’ve won in Carolina but we are what we are and it is what it is. The last two games this team has fallen behind and have come back and won key games. You don’t win a game like you won yesterday in Tampa Bay in front of a hostile crowd, divisional opponent and come back and win that game and win on the last play of the game unless you have a team that has a lot of character and resolve on it. I’m very proud of the team right now, we’re going to work hard to get better and we’re going to try to take a run at this thing.”
How tough it was to be away from the game early in the season:
“It was hard, it was really hard. It’s the first time I’ve been away from football in 44 years. Five years in college, a year of military academy and four years of high school and then 34 years in the National Football League, it’s all I’ve ever done. Now you’re separated from a bunch of guys, players and coaches that you have a lot of respect for, you have a lot of love for and they’re struggling a little bit, not winning, and things aren’t going the way we want them to go and it makes it hard because you want to be there to help and put the fire out. It was hard but I couldn’t have asked for more, I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome. The coaches have been great and I’m looking forward to being a contributor on this staff and doing the best I can to make sure we can win some games and get back in this hunt. It’s good to be back.”