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You’d think by this point in his career -- 33 years old, going into his 11th season, four Pro Bowls on his resume -- Michael Vick wouldn’t be interested in a good, old-fashioned quarterback competition.
After all, how many four-time Pro Bowlers have to fight for a job with a second-year pro with one career win?
On the contrary.
Ask Vick about what he faces over the next few weeks, and his face lightens up.
“I love the competition,” he said Tuesday as he walked off the practice field at the NovaCare Complex. “I embrace the competition. I really do. It makes all of us better quarterbacks. It makes all of us better football players. It definitely pushes me.”
Vick spoke after the first practice of his fifth preseason since joining the Eagles. For the first time since 2010, he doesn’t go into training camp as the designated starter.
And although he’s made it clear he’d like to know ASAP who the opening-day quarterback will be, he swears he enjoys the day-to-day competition with Nick Foles and doesn’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to deal with.
“If you get something handed to you, you could get lax in your approach,” he said. “If you have it handed to you, you could take things for granted and not put in the work that you need to.
“I enjoy it, and I think all the quarterbacks feel like it’s going to make us better quarterbacks, because we’re out there every day pushing each other.
“I’ve always had good quarterbacks behind me, pushing me. I had (Matt) Schaub and even Doug Johnson in Atlanta, I had Kevin (Kolb) when I got here and Vince Young, he was a really good quarterback, too.
“It’s definitely good for me. It keeps you on your toes. You can’t let up, because if you do somebody is going to pass you by.”
Vick reported to the NovaCare Complex on Monday and looked as fit and strong as he has since signing with the Eagles in the summer of 2009.
He’s coming off a couple disappointing seasons -- 7-6 as a starter in 2011 after a 3-6 start, and 3-7 last year.
After going 8-2 in his first 10 starts as an Eagle, he’s lost 15 of his last 25 starts. After 21 touchdowns and six interceptions in the 2010 regular season, he’s thrown 31 and 25 since.
He’s also missed three, three and five games with injuries the last three seasons, something he’s determined to avoid this year.
If he is the starter.
“I’ve been doing a lot of curls and a lot of bench presses [during] the offseason, just trying to put my body in the best position possible to withstand the hits,” he said.
“Everybody says I’m injury prone, so I’m trying to fight that. … You have to stay on the field, and that’s what I’m working on.”
This is an interesting time for Vick. He’s now one of the oldest quarterbacks in the league -- only Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Tony Romo and Carson Palmer were older among regular 2012 starters -- and he’s trying to adjust to a new offense, a new philosophy, a new coach, a new coordinator.
Twelve years after he was a rookie.
“It’s very innovative, and it’s fun, so every day when you come to practice you don’t know what you’re going to get,” he said.
“You get different looks, you get different plays called. I haven’t even run all the plays that we have, so I’m still learning on the job, but that’s the fun part about it. It requires you to study each and every night and be on top of it each and every day.”
What if Foles wins the job?
Will Vick be OK being a backup at this stage of his career? Assuming the Eagles keep him?
“Regardless of what the fate may be, I’m still going to compete and I’m still going to try to be the best quarterback I can be, and I’m still learning every day,” he said. “I still feel good, I still feel like I’ve got a lot left in my tank.”
There’s already been a good measure of drama surrounding a quarterback battle that hasn’t yet begun in earnest.
DeSean Jackson stated publicly that he expects Vick to win the competition, then two days later signed with Vick’s agent. Foles has already said he believes he’ll win the battle, and even rookie fourth-round pick Matt Barkley hasn’t been shy about championing his own intriguing candidacy.
It’s going to be an interesting summer.
“None of the talk is going to determine who’s going to be the quarterback,” Vick said. “Whether it’s myself or Nick or whoever it may be, DeSean will support Nick, Jeremy Maclin will support Nick or will support me, they support G.J. (Kinne) or Matt Barkley or whoever’s lining up behind center. That’s a credit to our teammates and the relationships we have and have been able to develop. I’m excited to be back working with these guys, and that’s it.
“That’s what I came back for. To win football games and help this team win football games by any means necessary, any way possible, and that’s the only reason I’m standing here right now.”
“I’m confident in myself. I’m very confident. That’s the only reason I’m standing here. I believe in me. I know what I can do. I know I’ve got a lot of years left to play this game. As long as I continue to stay in shape and continue to train and … take care of your body and give yourself the maximum opportunity to go out and be the football player that you want to be, then the sky’s the limit for me.”
Bobby Hoying went into 1998 as the unchallenged starter, and Doug Pederson went into 1999 season as the starter. Donovan McNabb was the clear starter entering every preseason from 2000 through 2009, Kolb had the job in 2010, Vick in 2011 and 2012.
So this is the first open competition the Eagles have had at the most important position on the field since 1997, when Ty Detmer and Rodney Peete battled at Lehigh.
Sixteen years ago.
And whatever is said, whatever is done, Vick said he’s going to relish every minute of this.
“From now on, until my career’s over, until I stop playing the game of football, I’m going to compete every day,” Vick said.
“I love that part of football. I love the competition aspect. I love the game that I play, and I think that supersedes everything.”