Two-man quarterback battle? Not if you ask Matt Barkley.
Barkley, the 22-year-old rookie from USC, reported to his first NFL training camp Monday at the NovaCare Complex and pronounced himself part of the Eagles’ quarterback competition.
Not a third-stringer. Not a backup. A contender to be the opening-day starter.
“There is an open competition,” Barkley said. “I absolutely feel like I’ve got to be a part of it. I’ve got to challenge myself, just like any other guy on the team.”
Although conventional wisdom says that Michael Vick and Nick Foles are the main contenders to be the Eagles’ starter against the Redskins on Sept. 9, Barkley isn’t buying it.
He’s part of the equation, too.
“Your mindset has to be that you’re in the race to start,” Barkley said. “You’ve got to have that mindset. I’m in a competition regardless of what everyone else is saying. You just have to practice that way, of always trying to compete.
“I couldn’t care less about what people are talking about. I don’t listen to that. ... I feel like I’m part of that race, whether people are saying that or not.”
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Monday there’s no reason Barkley shouldn’t feel that way.
This is a wide-open competition, and the guy who has the best preseason will win.
“We try to keep an open mind about everyone on our roster,” Roseman said. “You have to be open to surprises. You can’t just watch the tape looking for certain guys because you may miss something. You may miss a guy who’s really performing at a high level who steps up to the competition, so those are things you have to be aware of. How everyone’s playing. Not just the guys who are perceived to be part of the competition.”
Chip Kelly inherited Foles and Vick, but Barkley is his guy. And Barkley said nobody on the coaching staff or front office has said anything to make him think he won’t get a fair shot at the job.
The phrase “open competition” can only mean one thing, he figures.
“They’re not explicitly saying it’s yours for the taking,” he said. “But you want to call it open competition, you can translate that if you want to.”
Barkley and the Eagles’ other rookies and quarterbacks reported to the NovaCare Complex on Monday afternoon, and there will be about 30 players on the field Tuesday and Wednesday for short practices. The first full-team workout is scheduled for Friday.
Barkley is intriguing because he’s a total unknown, a brilliant college player who likely would have been a top-15 draft pick if he came out after the 2011 season but wasn’t drafted until the fourth round this past April.
“Gets the ball out very quickly, he’s a distributor,” Roseman said. “He’s like a really good point guard in basketball. He knows where to go with the football and makes good decisions, and he’s going to continue to grow and get better.”
Barkley said he’s never been compared to a point guard before, but he didn’t mind the comparison.
“Never viewed myself like that, but if it’s a good comparison, I’m all for it,” he said with a laugh. “Every team needs that so-called point guard, that quarterback at the helm who can captain the ship. That’s my goal, is to be that guy.”
If he’s going to win the job, he’s going to have to do it playing with the third team most of the time at practice and in the preseason games. At least to start with.
It’s a position he’s never been in, but with Vick and Foles ahead of him, that’s the reality.
“It’s a little different, just being in that position, but nonetheless, you still are capable of showing what you can do and how you can manage the offense,” he said.
“Maybe the guys around you are a little different, but how can you elevate the guys around you. That’s what they want to see.
“You just have to prove every snap that you’re capable of playing on this level. Regardless of what team you’re on, make the most out of every rep.”