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Vilma to miss Saints' opener

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Jonathan Vilma was looking forward to starting the 2013 season on a much better note than how 2012 began for him and the Bountygate-affected New Orleans Saints.

That won't be the case for the veteran linebacker, as he won't play in Sunday's opener against the Atlanta Falcons, a source told FOX Sports.

And there's even worse news for the 31-year-old Vilma, who is recovering from a procedure on his ailing knee: He's likely to miss at least a few games, per the source.

Vilma underwent the procedure in mid-August after being affected by the balky knee for most of last season. Vilma missed the Saints' first five games last year and was limited in his practice time the rest of the way. His latest knee procedure led to some reports he would be ready to go Week 1.

But that won't happen and there's reason to wonder how much Vilma will be able to play this season, period.

"I think it's speculation right now," Saints coach Sean Payton said Monday when asked about a report that stated Vilma could be ready for Sunday's game. "We'll see. I'll have more when we get to commenting on injured players later in the week."

Vilma's expected absence means David Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton will be the Saints' inside linebackers to start the season.