Jason Avant admitted he didn't pay close attention to the QB competition but said Michael Vick earned the job. (AP)
After eight seasons in the NFL, Jason Avant isn't really paying attention to who's getting the most reps under center in August.
"I just see a red jersey," Avant said after practice Tuesday. "I know who it is based on the spinning of the ball when it's coming to me."
Well, he's going to be looking at Mike Vick's spiral from here on out.
Avant was one of the many Eagles who went through Tuesday's practice without any idea that head coach Chip Kelly had named Vick the starter, ending the team's quarterback battle.
Avant, as he's wont to do, spent time after practice catching extra balls from a machine and found out about his coach's decision only right before he came back into the locker room, making him one of the last to know.
Once he heard, he had nothing but positive things to say about Vick and the way he handled what could have been an unpleasant experience.
"Congratulations to Mike," Avant said. "He didn't throw his head down when coach said it was going to be an open competition. He could have been like, 'Oh man, I've been in this league long enough, I've been to Pro Bowls,' and all that type of stuff, but he took it like a champion.
"He earned the job, and I'm very proud of him."
A fourth-round pick out of Michigan in 2006, Avant is one of the longest-tenured Eagles. Only Trent Cole and Todd Herremans have been hanging around the NovaCare Complex longer. That makes him uniquely qualified to evaluate teammates both on the field and in the locker room.
After Riley Cooper found himself in trouble earlier this offseason when a tape emerged online of the wideout using a racial slur during a concert earlier in the summer, it was Vick and Avant who spoke up first to support Cooper and try to keep the locker room together.
Even Kelly admitted Tuesday morning that his quarterback competition wasn't just about who completed the most passes, but that he and his coaching staff "evaluate everything."
And Avant thinks that's at least part of what's made Vick stand out throughout the battle.
"That's what he does naturally," he said, referring to Vick's leadership. "He learns what guys need individually to stimulate them and make them become a better player. I think Mike reaches some guys that normal people can't reach culturally, understanding [them], being there for them outside of the game. Those types of things say a whole bunch and they give him a voice to guys what not to do or to do something -- guys receive it better.
"Being able to have a conversation with the quarterback in the locker room is just the biggest thing. The quarterback position in general is kind of a separate position, but you can have a conversation with him and he's humble enough to listen and give you advice. So I think that's his biggest attribute is being humble enough to hear someone out."
That kind of leadership extends not just to the guys at the end of the roster, but to Vick's two greatest weapons for the past three seasons -- LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson.
"It carries a lot of weight," Jackson said. "He's been here for our five years now. [We] (Jackson, McCoy and others) kind of look up to him as a bigger brother. He honestly teaches us a lot of things, on and off the field, things he's went through. I've been saying that since Day 1. It just really motivates us and [he] tells us things that the average teammate or average older brother probably wouldn't tell us. He cares for us and he sees the future bright [for] our careers in Philadelphia."
Vick has had to learn an entirely new offense -- one that caters to an athletic skill set -- which only pushed him more, according to Avant.
Vick has spent 10 seasons in the NFL but is only now getting the chance to work with the kind of read-option attack that's finally making its way into the league, a good 12 years after Vick was drafted out of Virginia Tech.
That kind of opportunity has forced Vick to be better and, according to his wide receiver, has made the whole team better in the process.
"He wasn't familiar with the offense, so he had to be here to learn," he said. "And he had to be here to push guys and to prepare them, and he's been a champion in terms of doing the right things and working hard. He definitely knew what was at stake and this offense can benefit him a whole bunch. It's perfect for his skill set. You're just excited about his potential in this offense."
"I think [the competition] made both of them better," Avant added, referring to Vick and Nick Foles. "I think both of them are starters in this league and you need two quarterbacks in this National Football League with all of the hits over the course of a season. So I think we're in very good position with that position.
"It's not a position you're worried about, because we have a lot of guys that are very, very capable of running this offense at a high and effective way."
That should allow Avant to go back to ignoring who exactly is under center. He'll figure that out based on how the ball looks in the air. Unless something happens and things go south. That's when leadership comes into play.