WHILE MANY people still question whether Michael Vick really has "changed" as a person, no one can argue one thing about him that has changed since he signed with the Eagles last year: his work ethic.
Vick has acknowledged on numerous occasions that he didn't work nearly as hard at his craft as he should have during the six seasons he spent with the Falcons. While he wasn't a slacker, he also wasn't the last guy out the door each night like he often is now with the Eagles.
"Mike was a good teammate, worked hard, was on time, didn't argue, wasn't disruptive, didn't fall asleep in meetings," said Jim Mora, who coached Vick for the final 3 of his 6 years in Atlanta. "He took it seriously, just not seriously enough.
"His work ethic wasn't bad, it just wasn't what it should have been. The guy was compliant. He was never late. He had a good attitude. He worked hard. He just didn't necessarily go the extra mile you need to go in the NFL to be a consistent quarterback. Because it's different than other positions.
"Other positions, you can come in, get your work done and go home at night and study a little bit and be ready to go on Sunday. At the quarterback position, it takes a ton of work and a ton of extra work."
When he played for the Falcons and the world still was his oyster, Vick wasn't inclined to do the extra work. He had an over-inflated opinion of his talent. Mistook all those zeroes on his paycheck for a gauge of greatness.
He doesn't anymore. When you lose everything, including your freedom, including your wealth, including your dignity, it makes you take a hard, hard look at yourself.
When the Eagles threw him a rope last year and gave him an opportunity to pick up the shattered pieces of his career, he vowed to make the most of it. He vowed to do the work and the extra work and the extra, extra work to become a starting NFL quarterback again. To become a great NFL starting quarterback.
And he's done that.
"You know about his study habits," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "I mean, he's really cranked down on those and we have to kind of kick him out of the building here. He's here all the time and that's a good thing."
The hard work has paid off. Thanks to the time he has put in with Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and quarterbacks coach James Urban, Vick is developing into more than just a dangerous running quarterback. He is developing into an NFL passer.
Three straight games with a 100-plus passer rating for the first time in his career. Six touchdown passes and no interceptions. An 8.4 yards per attempt average.
"There are right and wrong ways to go about your business and he goes about his the right way," Mornhinweg said. "Like Andy said, we have to kick him out of here at night. He's done a great job with his preparation. It's all about hard work and preparation."
Some players realize that sooner than others. Some never realize it. It took a fall from grace to drive the point home for Vick.
"He was in his early 20s," Mornhinweg said. "He was considered one of the elite players almost immediately. He was making a lot of money right out of the chute. Young players, sometimes in their mind, think they can get by with their athletic ability. Mike knows better now."
NFC EAST CORNER
* So far so good for the Cowboys' new left tackle, Doug Free. Free, who has replaced Flozell Adams, got three tough early-season tests against the Redskins' Brian Orakpo, the Bears' Julius Peppers and the Texans' Mario Williams. Passed them all.
Free allowed zero sacks and just one combined tackle in the three games. Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said no Cowboys offensive lineman has graded out higher than Free the first 3 weeks.
* Ex-Eagle Shawn Andrews saw his most significant action since signing with the Giants. He replaced right tackle Kareem McKenzie in the fourth quarter of the Giants' 29-10 loss to the Titans on Sunday after McKenzie was yanked by coach Tom Coughlin for committing a pair of boneheaded personal fouls. Coughlin's review of Andrews' performance was restrained. "He did OK," he said. "There's a little bit of hestitation occasionally. It could be assignment-oriented. It could be the fact that he's actually playing three spots for us now."
AROUND THE LEAGUE
* Former Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin has been a disappointment since the Bills made him the 11th overall pick in the 2009 draft. Maybin doesn't have a sack yet in 19 NFL games.
"At this point it's not about first-round draft pick and all that stuff," Maybin said. "It's about winning football games. As far as winning football games and me being in a position to help this team as best I can, I still have some work to do. I'm man enough to admit that. I can look myself in the mirror and say that, as well as a whole lot of other people. The point in time comes when you have to really put some of that onus on yourself and you have to go out there and make the effort to get things turned around. It's gotta come from somewhere."
* With Bill Parcells expected to exit the Dolphins after this season, a lot of people expect former Chiefs president and general manager Carl Peterson to replace him as the team's football czar. But Peterson, a longtime friend of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, said last week that he isn't really interested in a GM-type role and indicated that the Dolphins already have a very capable CEO in Mike Dee.
Parcells had been the Dolphins' executive vice president-football operations for the Dolphins. He gave up that title last month, but still is a consultant for the team, which is a business term for "still getting paid but doing absolutely nothing."
* For the second straight week, Chiefs defensive lineman Shaun Smith has been accused of grabbing an opposing player's testicles during a play. Two weeks ago, Browns offensive lineman Alex Mack accused Smith. Last week, it was 49ers offensive lineman Anthony Davis.
"He tried to feel me," Davis told reporters. "That's weird, right?" Smith didn't deny the accusations, saying only that no one had informed him that he did anything illegal. Neither incident drew a penalty flag.
"These officials are the best of the best," Chiefs coach Todd Haley said. "I'm sure that when we do things that are outside the rules, the penalty flag will be thrown."
Smith's new nickname in Kansas City is the Genital Giant. 2-MINUTE DRILL
From the lip:
* "You always had to be careful what you said about him or around him. He took everything personally. He was uncoachable. His mechanics were awful. But you couldn't say, 'Donovan, put your elbow up,' or 'Donovan, straighten out your toe.' He wouldn't respond to it. He'd go into a funk." - NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger on Donovan McNabb
* "I think, at the end of the day, we will get an agreement. It's just a question of when. And I think that agreement is going to end up being good for the players, for the clubs and for the game. My hope is to do that sooner rather than later." - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the status of labor negotiations
* "Every time it's always something about Vince. It's Vince, Vince, Vince. But it's all good. I don't feed into it. I don't even read the stuff. Half the time I don't know what's going on." - Titans QB Vince Young on reports that he missed at least two team meetings before last week's game vs. the Giants
* "I've got the mindset that I know I'm the best. I really don't care about other people saying, 'Oh, I think Chris Johnson is the better back' and this and that. It doesn't matter, because as long as I know in my heart that I am and I'm working to be that player, then I'm going to continue to rise and move forward." - Vikings running back Adrian Peterson
By the numbers:
* In the 10 quarters that Mike Vick has been at quarterback for the Eagles, they've converted six of 13 third-down opportunities of 10 yards or more. Last year, they converted just 12 third-and-10s or more the entire season and didn't convert the first one until Game 6.
* There already have been five 400-yard passing performances, the most ever in the first 3 weeks of the season. The five: Texans' Matt Schaub (497 vs. Redskins), Broncos' Kyle Orton (476 vs. Colts), Chargers' Philip Rivers (455 vs. Seahawks), Colts' Peyton Manning (433 vs. Texans) and Redskins' Donovan McNabb (426 vs. Texans). In a related note, the Texans, who have given up two of those 400-yard games, are dead last in the league in pass defense. They're giving up 368.7 passing yards per game.
* The Chiefs are 3-0 for just the seventh time in franchise history. But their fans might want to hold off booking an early-February flight to Dallas. The three teams they've beaten are a combined 1-8.
* Entering Week 4, there have been six kickoff returns for touchdowns.
THAT'S SAYING THUMBTHING
Thumbs Up: To one of the league's great early season success stories, Texans running back Arian Foster. Undrafted last year, Foster spent 2009 on the Texans' practice squad. Now, through three games, he leads the league in both rushing (406) and yards from scrimmage (502). If he rushes for at least 94 yards Sunday, he'll become just the 10th running back in the last 40 years to rush for 500 yards in the first four games of the season. And if he does that and also has 4 receiving yards, he will be only the third running back in history to total more than 500 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards in the first four games of a season. The other two? Emmitt Smith and Billy Sims.
Thumbs Down: To Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum for suggesting that the reason wide receiver Braylon Edwards was benched for the first quarter of last Sunday's game against Miami wasn't "as much" about his DUI arrest as it was about him being out until 5 in the morning. For starters, his comment minimizes the culpability of (alleged) drunk-driving . Secondly, two of Edwards' teammates, offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and linebacker Vernon Gholston, were passengers in the car Edwards was driving. If being out late was the real no-no, then why weren't they benched as well, Mike?
DOMO'S NFL RANKINGS
1. Colts 2-1 (4)
2. Bengals 2-1 (5)
3. Ravens 2-1 (6)
4. Packers 2-1 (1)
5. Saints 2-1 (2)
6. Steelers 3-0 (8)
7. Titans 2-1 (11)
8. Texans 2-1 (3)
9. Falcons 2-1 (14)
10. Jets 2-1 (9)
11. Dolphins 2-1 (7)
12. Eagles 2-1 (12)
13. Patriots 2-1 (10)
14. Bears 3-0 (18)
15. Vikings 1-2 (15)
16. Cowboys 1-2 (16)
17. Giants 1-2 (13)
18. Chiefs 3-0 (22)
19. Cardinals 2-1 (19)
20. Chargers 1-2 (17)
21. Redskins 1-2 (20)
22. 49ers 0-3 (21)
23. Lions 0-3 (23)
24. Bucs 2-1 (24)
25. Seahawks 2-1 (28)
26. Broncos 1-2 (25)
27. Rams 1-2 (32)
28. Jaguars 1-2 (26)
29. Browns 0-3 (27)
30. Raiders 1-2 (31)
31. Bills 0-3 (29)