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Jonathan Vilma appears likely to play in Saints-Bucs

It seems more and more likely that linebacker Jonathan Vilma will make his season debut Sunday for the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints have until 4 p.m. ET on Saturday to activate Vilma for the Week 7 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but a person who has spoken with the player told NFL.com and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport that it appears the linebacker will play. Vilma even has made arrangements for his family to be in Tampa for the game.

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It's not clear how much Vilma will play, but signs point to him being a part-time player. ESPN's Ed Werder cited a source in reporting Vilma is expected to play "20 or so defensive snaps."

Vilma missed the Saints' first five games while on the physically unable to perform list as he recovered from knee surgery. He rejoined teammates at practice Wednesday, though he didn't work with the first-team defense.

Vilma was suspended for the entirety of the 2012 season for his involvement in the Saints' bounty program, but he's allowed to play and receive compensation during the appeals process.

This could a small window of opportunity for Vilma to see the field. The appeals of Vilma, Scott Fujita, Will Smith and Anthony Hargrove are scheduled to be heard by Paul Tagliabue on Oct. 30. If Tagliabue upholds NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's rulings, Vilma's last game of the season could be as soon as Week 8 against the Denver Broncos.

Tagliabue said he hopes to provide quick resolution following the appeal hearings. So Vilma could get shut down just as he warms up.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @danhanzus.

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