Jets linebacker Vilma still mulling surgery on injured knee

NEW YORK -- The mystery surrounding Jonathan Vilma's injured knee was not clarified even during the player's conference call Tuesday.

The New York Jets' star linebacker, out for the season after he was placed on injured reserve , said he's still mulling surgery for what he described only as "a regular knee injury." He also wouldn't specify which knee is affected.

Vilma was injured in New York's loss at Cincinnati on Oct. 21, missed practice last week and was placed on IR last Friday. Although Vilma's agent, Mitch Frankel, said the injury isn't career-threatening, coach Eric Mangini and the linebacker have declined to give any additional details.

"The injury is a regular knee injury and I can't get into specifics about it," Vilma said. "Unfortunately, it was bad enough to take me out for the rest of the season."

It's the Jets' policy to not discuss injuries. When Vilma was asked which knee it was and why he can't discuss it now that he's on injured reserve, the linebacker reiterated that it isn't his decision.

"I'm sorry, but that's beyond me," he said. "You have to take that up with Mangini. I don't have any control over that."

Vilma said he was injured in the first or second quarter against the Bengals, and was held out for a few series in the third quarter, but finished the game.

"I honestly don't know how I got hurt because I didn't feel it in the game," said Vilma, who added it started bothering him later in the game, but didn't think it was anything serious.

"I just kept on playing, kept trying to fight through it," he said. "It was one of those freak accidents, you know, if you step funny, step the wrong way."

The day after the game, Mangini said Vilma, who had only three tackles, was "dramatically affected" by an unspecified injury. But on his weekly spot on a sports radio station last Tuesday, Vilma said it was "a coach's decision" and wasn't due to any injury. Four days later, he was placed on IR.

"When I was on the radio, I hadn't even received my MRI results yet," Vilma said. "It was what I thought I could play with and I thought that I would be all right. ... I'm never going to tell anybody that I can't play because that'd be crazy. I've never missed a game before in my career, so I never tell anybody I can't play. It wasn't until I received the results that I realized that I really can't play."

Vilma said he has no timetable on a decision to have surgery on the knee, but agreed that being placed on injured reserve was best for him and the team.

"One option if I didn't have the surgery would be for the short term," he said. "If I did have the surgery, it would be for long term. That's a decision I have to decide on not only for football, because there's life outside of football."

Vilma was replaced by rookie David Harris in the starting lineup Sunday against Buffalo and the second-round pick had 17 tackles, including 10 solo. Vilma watched from the sideline with his teammates.

"That was surreal," Vilma said. "I felt like I was going to somehow wake up from the dream and come back and we'd start this game all over again in a couple of days and I'd be ready to play. The reality is I'm going to be the best cheerleader I can be, the best fan I can be on the sideline."

It was the first game Vilma missed since being chosen in the first round of the 2004 draft. He was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and established himself as one of the best playmaking linebackers in the league. Vilma was selected for the Pro Bowl following his second season after leading the league with 187 tackles.

The last two seasons were a different story for Vilma, who struggled in Mangini's 3-4 defensive scheme. He was fifth on the team with 39 tackles when he was injured.

"You have one style where the defense calls for me to run around and make tackles," he said. "That's what that defense is. The 3-4, you're asking for a different style where I'm not running around as much sideline to sideline. Instead, I'm taking on linemen and taking on guards more. You're seeing the same player, just in a different defense."

Because of Vilma's struggles, there has been speculation the Jets might trade him. He has one more year on his current contract, but any potential deals might be hindered by this injury.

"For myself, for the organization, we haven't even gotten to that point," he said. "Right now, we're worried about me getting better, getting ready for next year and being able to practice and play with the team again. ... If I'm here, I'm here. I'm going to play 110 percent. If not, we'll part ways and keep moving forward."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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