He looked stronger, relaxed, more confident, more poised. It’s been quite some time since Michael Vick and his body language spoke this optimistically about the potential of an offense with him as the centerpiece.
But despite coach Chip Kelly’s repeated declarations that his quarterback competition wouldn’t be decided today, tomorrow, next month or even before the start of training camp, Vick sure seemed to think he’s the leader in the clubhouse.
“Honestly, I look at it like this is still my team, this is still my job,” he said Wednesday, after the second minicamp practice of the Kelly Administration. “I think that’s the mindset you’ve got to have.”
To see Vick wax poetic about Kelly’s offense, about his fit in read-option schemes, about the lighting-quick pace and tempo of practice and the offense, you sensed new life in an aging quarterback, a former superstar who last year looked old and broken down as he absorbed so many crushing hits that he suffered a severe concussion and sat for about six weeks.
It’s almost as if Vick, who turns 33 in June, truly believes that he can rescue his career here for the second time, and that Kelly can resurrect the burst that’s been absent from the quarterback’s game for two seasons.
“The offense, I can just say to sum it all up, is very refreshing,” Vick said, an interesting choice of words that could be construed as somewhat of a knock on the West Coast scheme ran by Andy Reid for the past 14 years, a pass-heavy system that led to inflated stats for quarterbacks but was also chastised for its lack of run balance.
“Learning it and getting a feel for what Coach Kelly wants, what we’re trying to do and accomplish, it’s beautiful when it all comes together. We just have to keep practicing, keep getting reps.”
Vick is splitting most of the first-team reps with Nick Foles, and Dennis Dixon, who played for Kelly at Oregon, has also taken some snaps with the starters. Kelly on Tuesday said his quarterback race lacked a lead horse, but Vick seemed to think his skill set’s fit with the offense gives him the leg up.
“With the practice I had today, I think so,” he said. “This offense is very dynamic. It’s up-tempo. It’s fast-paced. It’s something like I’ve never seen before. After the last three, four weeks learning the offense, then coming out and practicing, I’m very excited about what we’re doing.”
Vick admitted that read-option schemes are prominent at practice and that the design of the playbook, which is far from complete, should be as friendly for the Eagles’ quarterback as it was for the passers who played for Kelly at Oregon. But he jokingly dismissed the perception that Foles couldn’t execute read-option schemes.
“I mean, Nick can run. Everybody’s got two legs,” Vick said. “He can do it. We all can do it. That’s why we’re all here.”
Vick’s ability to make defenders miss in the open field has diminished since his breakout 2010 season, but the numbers of trips to the sideline with various injuries has increased.
With an emphasis on getting the ball out quickly and run schemes designed to catch the defense out of position, Vick pointed out that “we don’t have to take a hit.”
“You’ll understand why when you see us practice,” he added, “or when you see us play. So, you don’t have to take a hit.”
Vick was slated to make close to $15 million this season but accepted a hefty pay cut to stay on the team and compete for the starting job, even though several NFL teams were shopping for quarterbacks this offseason and might have offered him more money or a guaranteed starting job.
Vick called Kelly’s hiring “the determining factor” in his decision to keep his locker in South Philly for a fifth season.
“Watching him at Oregon and what they did the last couple years, I was excited to give it another shot,” he said. “Sometimes, money is not the determining factor in everything, and it should never be … The smartest thing to do was to rethink it, think about it in the best possible light.”
It’s only been two practices, but others have sensed the invigoration in Vick, who has a 10-13 starting record in the past two years.
“I mean, we’re only two days in but Mike has done awesome,” tight end Brent Celek said. “I’m sure all the coaches would tell you the same thing, picking everything up. I think they’re throwing the right amount at all of us to make it easy to pick things up, so that’s been good, too.”
Vick felt that he made great progress from the first practice to the second one.
“I felt like I made a big jump from yesterday to today,” he said, “going out there and practicing and seeing it against different defenses. I was very accurate today. Guys were running wide open … I feel like the learning curve in this system is coming along. I’m excited about what we’re doing.”
It’s still feasible that Vick won’t get this chance, that either he won’t beat out Foles or will quickly get pushed aside by the promise of tomorrow if the Eagles use a high draft pick on a quarterback. They’ve worked out nearly every quarterback prospect expected to go in the first two rounds.
But the fact that Vick is considered in competition for the job and nothing has been handed over gives him a different perspective as he enters his 11th season, like he has something to prove again.
“It’s like starting all over again,” he said. “The competition is great. It pushes you. It makes you better. I can find the good and the positives and get the most out of myself. The great ones have to do that. I think there’s competition every day and every Sunday. This is just preparation for that.”