ANDY REID gave the rest of the National Football League its first glimpse of his plans for Michael Vick last night. Judging by the results, it's safe to say none of the league's defensive coordinators went rushing to the medicine cabinet for a Xanax.
Vick, who hadn't played in an NFL game in 32 months, was on the field for five snaps in the Eagles' 33-32 preseason win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Lined up as the quarterback in the Wildcat formation all five times, completing four of four passes for 19 yards and running once for 1 yard.
He also lined up in the slot on a 6-yard run by running back LeSean McCoy, but that play was negated by a holding penalty on tight end Brent Celek.
"We were just trying to get his feet wet and get him used to the speed of the game again," said Reid, the Eagles' coach. "I wanted to get him five to 10 snaps and get him back into the swing of things. I wanted him to work with the first group, and we got that accomplished."
Reid wasted little time getting Vick in the game, sending him in on the second offensive play. He and quarterback Donovan McNabb were on the field together, with Vick lining up in the shotgun and McNabb sliding over to the right side as a wide receiver. Vick threw a shovel pass to running back LeSean McCoy that gained 4 yards.
Vick made his last appearance of the game 2 1/2 minutes into the second quarter, again lining up as the Wildcat, with McNabb wide left this time. Vick threw a quick screen to the right side to McCoy that might have picked up decent yardage if wide receiver Kevin Curtis hadn't missed his block on Jaguars safety Sean Considine. The ex-Eagle held McCoy to a 2-yard gain.
Vick had his only rushing attempt on the Eagles' first offensive series. With McNabb out of the game, he lined up in the shotgun, and ran a read-option to the left side. But Jaguars defensive end Derrick Harvey didn't bite on his fake handoff to McCoy and held Vick to a 1-yard gain.
On the Eagles' second offensive series, Vick came in on a first-and-10 at the Jacksonville 27-yard line. He lined up in the Wildcat and completed a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Hank Baskett.
"It was great to finally get out there and get a feel for the game again," Vick said. "The speed was still the same as it was 2 years ago. It felt the same. It's almost like riding a bike. You never forget how to do it."
Said Reid: "It looked like he did a couple of good things. They had a pretty good scheme for it tonight. We were just running some basic plans with the option in there."
Translation: You ain't seen nothing yet. We've got a lot more clever things planned once we start playing games that count.
McNabb, who left the field completely for three plays Vick was in for, agreed with Reid.
"We were just showing different looks in a situation so that other teams have to prepare for it," he said. "There's a lot more [that goes] into it, but we didn't want to share it tonight."
Last night at least, the Wildcat seemed to keep intruding in the offense's ability to get into a rhythm. With Vick going in and out and McNabb either going out of the game or moving to wide receiver, the Eagles were like a car that continually stalls in rush-hour traffic.
Reid said it's the players' responsibility to get used to it.
"If you're going to use it, you've got to work it in," he said. "I expect the guys to make that part of the rhythm and make that work."
Interestingly, when the Eagles' offense sputtered in the middle of last season, Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg blamed much of it on the fact that they were using too many different personnel groupings at wide receiver, and that it prevented the offense from getting into any kind of rhythm.
Starting with the Thanksgiving-night win over Arizona, Reid and Mornhinweg reduced their wide-receiver personnel groupings, and the offense kicked it into high gear as the Eagles rallied to make the playoffs and advance to the NFC Championship Game.
Vick can play in next week's final preseason game against the Jets, but last night Reid wouldn't say whether he will. After that, he still faces a regular-season suspension that could last as long as five games or as few as none. Commissioner Roger Goodell has yet to make that determination.
It remains to be seen how many snaps a game Vick will get once he is cleared to play in the regular season. But Reid didn't sign him to be a bench ornament.
Reid's first priority, though, is making sure McNabb, a five-time Pro Bowler, gets enough snaps. After that, he'll worry about working Vick into the offense.
"We'll see how it works out here," he said. "We'll play it by ear. I know I have a great quarterback with Donovan. So I want to make sure he has enough opportunities to touch the football and do his thing. At the same time, it gives us a nice little wrinkle in there." *
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