Mike Vick is 31 years old and hell be 32 by the time the season starts. Hes been to four Pro Bowls and hes entering his 10th NFL season.
And despite all that, this might be the most important off-season of his career.
See, Vick was the starter heading into the highly anticipated 2011 season but the lockout destroyed any semblance of a normal off-season. Vick worked out with teammates for a few weeks during the summer and most certainly kept himself in shape. But there was no structure, no OTAs, no mini camps.
Which brings us to this off-season, the first in which Vick has the chance to work with coaches as a starter before training camp begins in late July.
Its important for his growth and development as a quarterback in our system, said Eagles quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson on the eve of the team's OTAs. As coaches, we spend a lot of time with scheme and defensive personnel and we try to do things in the off-season, nows the time if were going to tweak something, to tweak something.
Last year, going into training camp, we had all these thoughts and ideas but we didnt have players to coach. We couldnt communicate those thoughts or ideas with any of our players, particularly with our quarterbacks.
In Mikes case, in any quarterbacks case, its hard. We just didnt have the time to prep and to study it and to fully grasp what we were trying to get done. Looking back at that, I think thats how we started the season off how we did with the quarterback.
If you need a reminder of how badly the 2011 season began, its probably because youve erased that portion of your memory. After an opening day win against the Rams, the Eagles lost four straight and never again had a record above .500.
By the time the Eagles' record reached its lowest point (1-5), Vick had thrown eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. He threw for an average of 267.2 yards per game in those five games a number that was affected by sustaining three injuries in five games.
But regardless of Vicks injuries, he struggled. The team struggled. And that surprised Pederson, especially because the Eagles didnt have that many moving parts.
Your natural instinct with that would be yes, said Pederson when asked if he expected the Eagles offense to be in a better position than others across the league. That we would just come in and hit the ground running and move forward. Obviously, that didnt happen.
So maybe the lack of a structured off-season really did affect Vick and the offense that much. Even if it did, those excuses are certainly gone this season. Vick knows the 2012 team is his; now he just has to prepare accordingly.
Vick won the NFLs Comeback Player of the Year award in 2010, but thats in the past now too. Its likely not many folks in Philadelphia care about his journey back to the NFL as much as they do about wins and losses and, of course, a Super Bowl victory.
So, for the soon-to-be 32-year-old quarterback, with whom the Eagles can elect to cut ties after the season if they choose, this should be his most important season yet. Right?
Theyre all important, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. This ones important for everybody, not only Mike.
Well, maybe a little more for Mike.
In late August, Vick signed a six-year deal worth 100 million that includes 36 million guaranteed. But the six-year part in the deal as in many NFL deals is deceiving. The Eagles would be able to cut ties with Vick after this season without serious consequence.
I know this: that he progressed beautifully last year, Mornhinweg said. The results didnt quite show like he wanted them or I wanted them or the organization or the fans wanted them but hopefully theyll show now. Hes much further ahead and at a higher level now than he was in past history. And thats a good thing.
Hes gotta keep himself healthy and thats a great responsibility to his teammates and he understands that. In the big picture, hes much further ahead at the quarterback position than he ever has been.
And maybe its just in time.
E-mail Dave Zangaro at email@example.com