Friday is big for Michael Vick. It’s the moment of truth about his hamstring and whether he can really start for the Eagles against the Giants.
“I’m going to run 100 yards as fast as I can,” he said after Thursday’s practice, “and try to cut, try to make some subtle movement in the pocket and just see what happens.”
Sometime Friday afternoon Vick will administer the truest test of his recovery. He’ll run like he hasn’t since pulling his hamstring before halftime against the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 6.
Vick has practiced for almost three weeks. This week, he’s taken his first 11-on-11 reps as the first-string quarterback since suffering the injury.
He’s moved around the pocket, made all the throws and has basically done everything starting quarterbacks around the NFL do during the week leading up to game day.
But he hasn’t yet run full speed. He’s done three-quarter speed sprints, weight lifting and leg stretching. To truly know if his hamstring can handle a real game, not just a practice, he needs to push himself to the limit.
That’s what makes Friday such an important stage in his recovery. It’s a walk-through for the rest of the team, but not for him.
“I’m ready to get to it. I’m ready to get it out of the way,” he said. “I’m ready to just get it over with. I’ve been throwing every day, just trying to keep my arm in shape, keep my mind mentally in football. But I really want to get out there and sprint and run. This is part of the process.”
Vick is optimistic that he won’t have setbacks. At the same time, knowing what’s at stake, he’s slightly apprehensive. It seems unlikely that Nick Foles will be recovered from his concussion in time to suit up (see story), which means rookie Matt Barkley is the next man up if Vick can’t play.
“There’s always gonna be the doubt, the fear of failure,” Vick said, “because to me if I can’t do it, it’s going to be a failure.”
Vick’s hamstring is really the only medical concern for the team as it prepares to face the Giants for the second time in four weeks. Foles and reserve linebacker Jake Knott (hamstring) were the only Eagles to miss practice.
Left cornerback Bradley Fletcher returned to practice after missing the previous two with a lingering knee injury from Sunday’s game against the Cowboys. Free safety Patrick Chung (shoulder), punter Donnie Jones (left foot) and defensive end/tackle Cedric Thornton (knee) were limited, but there aren’t any indications that any of them won’t play.
Vick, running back Chris Polk (shoulder) and left tackle Jason Peters (shoulder, finger) each practiced in full.
Foles’ likely absence underscores the significance of Vick being able to start for the first time in three weeks.
“Absolutely, I want to be out there with my teammates,” Vick said. “That’s why I’m giving everything I got. If I step out there I want to make sure I step out there and everything is right. It’s one thing to come out and practice, it’s another thing to go out and play. And I missed football, I can tell you that.”
Several times, Vick was asked if he expects to start or if he’s positive that he can clear Friday’s final hurdle. Each time, Vick echoed a sentiment of optimism, but made no guarantees or slam-dunk declarations.
This wasn’t like last Thursday, when Vick told reporters he wouldn’t play against Tampa Bay even as Chip Kelly left the door open.
Vick insisted that he’s not having fun with the media or trying to hoodwink division rivals.
“This is not an issue or situation to play around with,” he said. “I’m not up here playing games or blowing smoke. I’m just trying to figure out what’s the best situation.”