Michael Vick is pushing himself, but he said it's not just because the Eagles are hosting the Atlanta Falcons.

Vick, the quarterback who sat out last Sunday with a rib cartilage tear suffered the previous week against Washington, didn't practice yesterday, but after practice, Vick said "don't count me out" of Sunday's game.

Eagles coach Andy Reid said before practice that Vick had begun light weightlifting but was not yet throwing a football. Vick said after practice that he is throwing, and "got my motion back, baby."

When a questioner ventured that he seems unlikely to play this week, Vick said: "I wouldn't say that."

"It's no extra motivation because it's Atlanta," Vick said. "We're past that; we got over that last year."

Vick looked rusty and slow much of last season, as he returned to the NFL after spending more than 18 months in prison for running a dogfighting ring. The lone exception was the Eagles' 34-7 victory in Atlanta Dec. 6, in which Vick threw for one touchdown and ran for another, against the team that drafted him first overall in 2001.

Vick was asked yesterday whether pain tolerance is the biggest barrier to him returning to play.

"It's just being able to deal with it," he said. "Working out the little kinks and getting ready to go play some ball."

Could he play without practicing this week?

"I don't practice to play," he said. "Not to be arrogant or sound arrogant, but I don't need practice to play."

Bunk not sunk

So Brodrick Bunkley hasn't quite been elbowed off the roster, after all, but it's unclear when the Eagles' starting defensive tackle might be able to play again, or how effective he can be without surgery.

Eagles coach Andy Reid said team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Peter DeLuca and renowned sports orthopedist Dr. James Andrews "got together and talked through it . . . and said, 'Let's give him an opportunity to rehab it and then brace it up and get out there and give it a try.' "

Reid said "it will be a stretch" for Bunkley, who suffered a left elbow sprain on the second play of last Sunday's victory over the 49ers, to play this week. "He didn't have a tremendous amount of pain and he had strength [in the affected arm], so the doctors put that into the calculation," Reid said. "He does have swelling in there, and they have to get the swelling out, and then continue to rehab."

Practice squad

Defensive tackle Jeff Owens tweeted Tuesday that he was coming up to the active roster. Andy Reid said Owens was told that before the coaching staff knew Bunkley might not be done for the season, after all, contrary to what Reid had envisioned during his Monday radio show. Obviously, Owens still could come up, since the Eagles have just three healthy d-tackles.

Bunkley and Mike Patterson have been the starting defensive tackle duo since 2007; each has missed just one game in that span. Bunkley is considered the run-stopper for a defense that ranks 24th against the run this season.

"We feel real good still. We've still got [Antonio] Dixon, we've got [Trevor] Laws . . . We still have players out there to do a good job against the run," Patterson said.

Patterson said he won't have to provide any special guidance to Dixon, who has played in the rotation since coming to the team after he was cut by the Redskins before the 2009 season, or Laws, a 2008 second-round pick. "These guys have been here already," Patterson said. "They already know what to expect, as far as what the coaches want out of them, and they know how we play here . . . We're not really worried about getting guys ready and stuff like that."

Dixon notched his first sack of the season Sunday after replacing Bunkley. He said it meant even more because his mother, watching on TV in Florida, texted him that she had seen it. "That was really exciting," he said.

Laws has finally won a role this season after disappointing his first 2 years out of Notre Dame. He pressured 49ers quarterback Alex Smith into throwing the game-clinching interception to Trevard Lindley Sunday night.

"I want all the snaps I can get," he said. "I think I can be a three-down, starting d-tackle in this league."

Laws said he plays better the more snaps he gets, the more he can "grind my guy down."


Defensive end Pannel Egboh joined the Eagles from the Texans just before the final preseason game and played well, forcing a fumble on a sack. That wasn't enough to give him a foothold at the time, but with the ascension last week of Chad Hall from the practice squad, Egboh now has been added to that unit. Egboh said he'd been working out in California, waiting for someone to call. "I didn't think it was going to break this early in the season," he said. "I'm real excited about that" . . .

As expected, concussion victims Asante Samuel and Riley Cooper returned to practice, though Cooper was listed as a limited participant . . . Andy Reid said the Eagles' problem with kick coverage is "not as much personnel as it is the fundamentals. We've just got to make sure that we don't lose leverage" with a young coverage group . . . Left guard Todd Herremans (knee) and running back LeSean McCoy (rib) didn't practice.

For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.