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Mike Vick: Starter or Not, Eagles and Chip Kelly Are Best Opportunity

Jul 24, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT

Michael Vick AP

Michael Vick’s motives are pure. If a 33-year-old quarterback entering his 11th NFL season doesn’t realize the days of shoe deals and video game covers are either over or at least coming to an end, then he’s probably the recipient of some bad advice (DeSean Jackson apparently thinks that’s unlikely for what it’s worth – he just hired Joel Segal, Vick’s agent).

Less than seven weeks after making remarks that were widely interpreted as a sign of insecurity, Vick seemed loose and relaxed while speaking to the media following the first practice of Eagles training camp on Tuesday. The four-time Pro Bowler was also honest and at times reflective about the place his career has arrived since he’s gone from signing in Philadelphia for a reported $100 million to battling for a job within two years.

The first thing you may notice about No. 7 compared to last season is how much bigger he looks. Vick stopped short of actually admitting he’s injury prone, but did concede the extra four pounds of muscle he put on during the offseason was in part to help combat injury. Is it a sign of maturation, or natural byproduct of the new head coach’s program?

Regardless, improved conditioning could be woven into the fabric of an even broader theme. Vick’s press conference was bookended by comments which – unwittingly or not – sounded like an acknowledgement that his playing days do appear to be finite. He began by using phrases like “until my career is over” and “until I stop playing the game of football,” building up to a grand finale of, “I know I’ve got a lot of years left to play the game.” That last one usually means the opposite.

It’s important we attempt to understand Vick’s perspective if we want to understand why he agreed to restructure his contract in February, and why he truly might be at peace with the prospect of being Nick Foles’ backup this year. To his credit, the 2010 Comeback Player of the Year tried to make it simple for us.

He wants to stay in the league.

“I love what I do. I love the game that I play, and I think that supersedes everything.”

For all of the preconceived notions about how Vick would react to losing the open competition at quarterback, he knew the deal coming into this camp, as far back as the day he signed. And whenever Vick is asked specifically about the prospect of holding a clipboard come September, he continues to maintain his cool.

June 5, 2013:

“Always going to be a leader on this team, regardless of what my place is.”

July 23, 2013:

“If I have to watch film with all the quarterbacks, or if I have to coach the quarterbacks one day, then that’s what I’ll do.”

No matter what he says, many observers still refuse to accept Vick would go down quietly and take on role of the consummate teammate/cheerleader. Perhaps it’s easier to believe that Vick would stay with the Eagles to benefit himself first and foremost. There isn’t even anything sinister about that. Most people call it a career move.

“I came back to play for Coach Kelly. That was it. I heard a lot about him from watching Oregon throughout the years, and I just felt like this was the best opportunity for me, and I chose it regardless of whatever the fate may be.”

Note the language. Best opportunity, not necessarily best opening. Put it this way: if Vick chose the Eagles because of Chip, because being embroiled in a quarterback competition in Philly was the best situation, what could possibly change between now and next month? Just because another team has a spot – say due to an injury – doesn’t mean they want Vick, and just because a team does have a spot for Vick doesn’t mean that’s the best opportunity for him, either.

Vick’s next chance to start could be his last. Joining another team in late August – likely one that would be going nowhere – trying to learn a new system and mesh with unfamiliar personnel on the fly is not ideal.

That’s certainly no way to foster career longevity.

For the Eagles’ part, general manager Howie Roseman told reporters on Monday that they envisioned having Vick on the club when he restructured.

“When we signed Michael it was with every intention that he was going to be on this team.”

Seems like the right thing to do for Vick by the way, as long as he is content of course, rather than cutting him at the end of camp. Wouldn’t that be something of a dick move by the Eagles to release a player who agreed to come back when there was no guarantee he would be the starter?

The fact is Vick can still help the Birds this season. He can push Foles this summer. His presence on the roster allows Chip to bring Matt Barkley along slowly. And, yeah, he might even give them their best shot at winning right away.

Vick’s not backing down from the challenge. At practice on Tuesday, Foles dropped back and hit Russell Shepard in stride on a 50-yard bomb down the sidelines – the one time the quarterbacks were asked to cut loose all day. Vick came up next and matched Foles, connecting with a streaking Ifeanyi Momah on his own deep ball.

That might have been a sampling of what’s to come this season, even if Vick doesn’t win the competition. He could be slinging touchdown passes in relief of Foles, only after coming off of the bench.

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