In the meantime, Smith and Vilma keep playing, and Saints coaches make weekly game plans on the assumption they'll have the two defenders in the lineup.
‘‘You have to have a little bit of foresight should something happen. We've kind of just been under that thing all year long,’’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. ‘‘Once we know the week is set the way the week is, we just move on and worry about the opponent we’re playing.’’
The Saints won’t want to lose Smith and Vilma, given their leadership roles on a unit that needs help. The Saints are last in the NFL in yards allowed (471.3 per game) but did come through with clutch plays against the Eagles, including Patrick Robinson’s interception return for a touchdown, a fumble recovery and seven sacks. Smith had two sacks and Vilma had two tackles for losses.
If the suspensions are upheld, Smith will have to serve four games and Vilma the rest of the season.
Saints linebacker Scott Shanle said he hopes that won’t happen, but added that the Saints know worrying about it won’t do any good.
‘‘We’re at the point now where it seems like every week there’s something new to distract us, so people are like, ‘The hell with it. We'll wait to figure it out when the time comes,'’’ Shanle said. ‘‘We’re trying to fight our way back into something and with all the distractions we've had week in and week out, I think guys just kind of put blinders on.’’