A tame debut for Eagles' Vick

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Michael Vick lined up at quarterback five times and was used once as a slot-receiver decoy in his Eagles debut. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

As with everything else that has transpired since the Eagles signed quarterback Michael Vick two weeks ago, even his first step onto the football field last night was the subject of disagreement.

If you were listening for cheers, there were cheers, augmented by a portion of the crowd that chose to stand while delivering them.

If you were listening for boos, there were some of those, too, although not many by Philadelphia standards and definitely not many by dog-killing felon standards.

This was a football crowd, after all, and it came for playmaking not politics, for spectacle not speeches.

The sideshow was outside the stadium, where the skimpy band of knee-jerk protesters on one side of the issue matched rhetoric with the skimpy band of knee-jerk protesters on the other side.

It was a good show for the television cameras, but although the medium can add weight to those on the air, it's hard to add sheer numbers. There were perhaps a dozen pro-Vick enthusiasts marching around for the cameras, and maybe a half-dozen on the other side, although that counts as 42 in dog supporters.

The pregame bluster was as predictable as it was perfunctory, and Eagles fans attending the game mostly ignored it. More interesting was the simple curiosity about what would happen in the game, how Vick would be used, how he would play.

Aside from his well-crafted introductory news conference, there had not been much of a way to judge Vick before last night. He hasn't spoken to the media, has been seen briefly in snippets of film from the practice field, and the only stir he had created came from a swizzle stick in a Grey Goose-and-pineapple.

He has been in bubble wrap for the most part. When a let's-be-friends confab between team officials and a number of animal-rights groups was held at the NovaCare Center last week, Vick wasn't even required to cross the hallway to say "Hi" to the folks. Somewhere on the scale of possible risk and possible reward it was decided that an extemporaneous forum with that audience wasn't in Ookie's best interests.

The Eagles prefer a more controlled environment, and that's what Vick was given when he played last night against the Jaguars. He took part in each of the first four offensive series of the game, getting on the field for a total of six plays.

On a scale of exciting introductions, if Vick were any other player, it would have been barely a blip. The crowd waited for something more, a broken play that turned into a big gain or a Wildcat option that caught the Jags sleeping. Something.

Instead, it was a tame debut, almost domesticated. Vick lined up at quarterback five times - three with Donovan McNabb at a wide-receiver position - and once was used as a slot-receiver decoy.

He ran once, a straightforward option play around left end, for a gain of 1 yard. He passed four times, completing all four, but two were little shovel passes that didn't account for much. One was a dart to the sideline of the sort that never gains any yardage for McNabb, and didn't gain any for Vick, either.

There was also a 13-yard completion to Hank Baskett, a pass he was able to whistle between defenders for a first down. That one was nice, but there weren't enough repetitions to know whether it was a fluke or a preview of something more.

Most noticeable was that the first-team offense scored a total of three points in those four series. Much later, McNabb confirmed that he made it known it was time to get back to some basic offense and get some flow to the game.

"At some point, you have to get a rhythm going, get going down the field and move the chains," McNabb said. "Then you can try some things."

If the starter thought they put the play chart before the horse in this game, it wasn't a view shared by the head coach, who thought the Vick experiments went well, or the new guy, who was pleased by the reception from the crowd and the mere chance to play again - even if just for six snaps.

By the start of the second half, with the Eagles losing and the game devolving into just another boring exhibition, the remaining crowd started a few half-hearted "We want Vick" chants. There was a little more heart in them after the fans watched backup quarterback Kevin Kolb intentionally ground a pass to allow a safety at the end of the third period, but only the mean kids were still in the stands by then.

In all, you have to mark it down as a successful day for Vick. A judge in Newport News, Va., approved his plan to repay more than $20 million to creditors, and Vick flew back to Philadelphia in time for the game. Then the initial football appearance was applauded by a sterner set of judges, and the opening wave of protests and counter-protests came and went without much attention or interest. Yes, things are getting back to normal for Michael Vick.

For the Eagles, if it is normal for the starting quarterback to try to keep an offense flowing smoothly while lining up occasionally at wide receiver and coming out at other times to make way for a gimmick, then apparently things are normal there, too.

 


Contact columnist Bob Ford at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com. Read his blog at http://philly.com/postpatterns.