Vick says his body's holding up to beating

MICHAEL VICK gets hit more than any quarterback in the National Football League. He gets knocked down or sacked on one of every 4.5 passing plays. The only starting quarterback in the league with a similar number is Jacksonville's David Garrard - but that doesn't include the hits taken while running with the football. Those hits push Vick into a category by himself.

Can he continue to excel under that onslaught? It is becoming one of the key questions of the Eagles' season.

Jay Cutler, Donovan McNabb, Jason Campbell and Brett Favre are in the next echelon, getting leveled about once every 5.5 passing plays, and it progresses from there. At the other end of the scale is someone like Peyton Manning, who gets pummeled only once every 12.5 passing plays. Others nearby are Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Tony Romo and Mark Sanchez. A typical NFL starter is north of 8.0.

Vick is anything but typical, which we already knew. But as the season progresses, this season of rebirth for No. 7 will become a physical grind most of all.

So far, he says it isn't a problem.

"It does not have any affect at all on me," he said, after Sunday's 31-26 loss to the Chicago Bears, adding, "I felt better than I have the last three. So bodywise, I feel good."

There is still such a small sample of Vick 2.0 that it is hard to draw a lot of conclusions. The overall feeling is that he was less magical in the last two games than he had been - still a very good quarterback, but not constantly forcing you to search for the superlative thesaurus. The biggest difference was not in the number of times he ran the ball but in the yards per carry. The killer scramble was a less visible part of his arsenal.

The likely reason is the quality of the defenses he was facing from the Giants and the Bears. But in there somewhere, after a game when the Bears hit him 11 times, you have to wonder about the physical toll.

One thing, though. Don't jump to any conclusions about the Eagles' offensive line. Odd but true: By the same measuring standard, Kevin Kolb has been knocked down half as often this season as Vick (once every 9.1 pass plays).

This is because of a stylistic, tactical decision made by both quarterbacks. Kolb reads quickly and gets rid of the ball. Vick waits, buys time, and makes a lot more big and dynamic plays. It is a style of play that got him the starting job and onto the cover of Sports Illustrated. It is all deserved.

But he pays a price, physically. He has already been knocked out of one game (and three more to follow) by the Redskins. There is always going to be that risk, as there is with any NFL quarterback. But when the rate at which you are getting knocked down approaches double that of a typical quarterback, there also is the risk of this accumulation of hits.

Vick is obviously a very tough guy, and he has that going for him. The lack of sliding notwithstanding, he also appears to try to be smart about avoiding contact. Even with all of that, though, he seems to accept the hits as a necessary part of being him.

For everyone else, that means getting used to the sight of him slowly getting to his feet, a couple of times each game, and gathering himself for the next play.

That said, this week should not be a problem. This is not the Giants' defense or the Bears' defense. This is the Texans' defense, with an ultrashort week to prepare for a complex Eagles offense, with the need to travel besides, and with a 102.8 opponent passer rating that winks at you from the stat sheet like a beacon in the night.

It looks to be a Michael Vick kind of game. And then it looks to be perfect place for a few days of down time.

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