"Vilma is big enough," said Haley, who draft two undersized Hall-of-Fame linebackers in Pittsburgh, Jack Lambert and Jack Ham. "Teams had the same debate on Ray Lewis at the time he came out. He turned out pretty good.
"There are some real good players at that position in our league who are not as big as Vilma. This guy has done it on a high level, and won't have trouble doing it on our level. The question is what spot will somebody step up and take him."
Cottrell, now the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator, agrees with Haley that Vilma's lack of ideal size shouldn't be a problem in the NFL.
"I don't think size will be any handicap at all," said Cottrell. "If the runner's got the ball, he's going to be around the play."
Cottrell thinks some scouts get too caught up in things aside from production on the football field, and that can be a mistake.
"I always look at how they play," said Cottrell. "Some of these players look good dancing in their shorts (during workouts), but some of them can't play. It's when they put their helmet on, strap it up and go after some people, that's what I look at."
And when he watches Vilma, he sees a lot of production.
"Jonathan Vilma is a player," said Cottrell. "If you need a linebacker, this kid can start right away for you."
Haley also likes the production he sees when he watches Vilma, and he saw him a lot being based out of Florida.
"Vilma is quick, fast, athletic and exceptionally smart," said Haley. "He's dedicated and a great leader."
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