Thursday, December 25, 2014

Vick's role at center of Eagles' moves

At about 9:57 a.m., the cheers grew louder from the stands here at Lehigh on the the first day fans were allowed to watch practice.

Vick's role at center of Eagles' moves

Despite all the other story lines, the 2011 Eagles depend on Michael Vick (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Despite all the other story lines, the 2011 Eagles depend on Michael Vick (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)

At about 9:57 a.m., the cheers grew louder from the stands here at Lehigh on the the first day fans were allowed to watch practice.

Strolling over to the far field was a 6-5 man wearing a No. 9 jersey with no name on the back: Vince Young.

Young acknowledged the crowd, and fans let out an E-A-G-L-E-S chant, one of the first ones of the new season.

Unable to practice, Young had on a green Eagles visor and walked over to greet Mike Kafka, Jerrod Johnson and quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson. He watched as Michael Vick continued to take reps with the first team. When it came time for a break, the Eagles' starting quarterback greeted the newcomer with a handshake and a hug.

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After practice, when asked about why he came to the Eagles, Young pointed to Andy Reid first. But really, it's more than Reid. It's Vick too. And the appeal of playing with him is an underrated factor in the team's offseason moves.

In five seasons as the Falcons' starter, Vick's quarterback rating ranged from 69.0 to 81.6. After serving a prison term and learning a new offense, in one season with the Eagles, he set career-highs in QB rating (100.2), completion percentage (62.6), yards per attempt (8.1) and touchdown passes (21).

Think Young, who is 28 and trying to resurrect his career, might have noticed that?

But the appeal of Vick has shown with other players too.

Jason Babin talked about it when asked why he chose Philly.

Nnamdi Asomugha reportedly picked the Eagles because he flat-out thought they had a better chance to win the Super Bowl than the Jets, a team that was in the AFC championship last year. Think Vick had something to do with that?

And team president Joe Banner said there was "no doubt" Vick's talent, and his journey, has had an impact on players wanting to come here.

When he first joined the Eagles, I remembered being surprised that Vick's teammates at times actually seemed in awe of him. It was not uncommon at that time for Vick to find a running lane, avoid defenders and pick up a big gain. The sidelines would erupt when he made those plays. And this was just practice.

Today, about 15 minutes after Vick greeted Young, he was back behind center, running the offense. His two top receivers - DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin - are not at camp yet. But Vick found the reliable third option, Jason Avant, open for a big gain the middle of the field.

As he came to the sideline, Vick delivered a fist-pound to Jason Peters, who was down on one knee, taking a breather after holding off Trent Cole on the play. Then he greeted Jason Avant, Mike McGlynn and the rest of his offensive teammates, all the way down the sideline to Brent Celek, who was at the end of the row.

The scene was not an uncommon one, or really an all that important one. It probably plays out similarly at training camps across the country. Likely at the college and high school levels, too.

But the point is one that needs to be made. A year after entering training camp as a backup quarterback with a limited role on the back end of a two-year contract, Vick is the undisputed leader of an Eagles team looking to win this city its first Super Bowl.

Coaches rave about his work habits. Fans are in awe of his talent. And Vick possesses a credibility among teammates and opponents that very few athletes in the league have.

In his eighth year as a pro, Vick has the same responsibilities as the 31 other starting quarterbacks: know the offense, command the huddle, make good decisions, put in work in the film room, etc.

But consider what else the Eagles have added to his plate, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

The idea that he'll mentor Young is obvious.

And while Reid, Banner and Howie Roseman have deflected questions about DeSean Jackson's holdout, Vick has been swarmed by reporters on a daily basis, left to answer them. He does so in a comfortable manner that lets his wide receiver know Vick is in his corner, but also in a way that doesn't upset management or create any kind of divide.

So as the training camp story lines continue to unfold - Jackson's holdout, the suddenly crowded defensive backfield, Juan Castillo's transition to defense, Danny Watkins' contract - look for Vick to continue to be the one constant.

Looking to continually rehab his image, while at the same time building on a successful 2010 and righting the wrongs that plagued him late in the year, this is his team, and the Eagles will go as far as Vick takes them.


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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
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