In two preseason games, Michael Vick has completed 13 of 15 passes for 199 yards. (USA Today Images)
Whatever was missing last year, whatever was missing maybe the last couple years, Michael Vick feels like it’s back.
Sure looks like it’s back.
Vick said late Thursday night that he lost his confidence and his passion for the game of football at some point during the miserable 2011 and 2012 seasons and said working with new Eagles coach Chip Kelly has helped restore whatever had been sapped from his game during those lean years.
“I’m having fun playing football,” Vick said. “I fell in love with the game again, and I’m very thankful for that.
“You’ve got to play this game with intense passion and a purpose and I thank Coach Kelly for what he’s done for me, and that’s given me that confidence that I felt that I was losing at some point in my career.”
Vick looks tremendous right now, but he hasn’t been an elite player since 2010, when he went 8-3 and carried the Eagles to the playoffs.
He has a 10-15 record in his last 25 starts, and he said Thursday night the criticism he heard during his injury-plagued and turnover-marred 2012 season affected him during the Eagles’ miserable 4-12 season a year ago.
“When things don’t go well and when everybody’s pointing the finger at you, sometimes it can hurt your confidence,” he said. “You can be one of the best players in the league and sometimes outside sources can maybe waver your feelings or your emotions, and I read everything that was said. I lived it.
“But, you know, when I first sat down with Coach Kelly, his main concern, his main goal, was to help me get back to tip-top shape and get me to a point where I can be comfortable and believing in myself again, and I thank him for that.
“That’s where the work ethic comes from now. That’s why I come in early and train hard and I do everything they ask me to do, and I encourage my teammates to do the same thing. Because I see how it’s helping me develop as a quarterback, even in the later stages of my career.”
Vick spoke Thursday evening after a second consecutive terrific preseason performance, this one in a 14-9 win over the Panthers at the Linc (see Instant Replay).
In two preseason games, Vick has completed 13 of 15 passes (87 percent) for 199 yards, with one touchdown and one interception that came on a meaningless Hail Mary on the final play of the first half Thursday night.
He’s been almost perfect.
And even though Kelly said he still hasn’t decided whether Vick or Nick Foles will be the Eagles’ opening-day quarterback against the Redskins on Sept. 9, it’s pretty clear that Vick has a sizeable lead with two preseason games remaining.
Vick wouldn’t say whether he feels like he’s done enough to earn the starting nod and said he’s not focused right now on who’s ahead.
“I’ve just continued to work hard, and that’s what’s put me in a position to succeed out on the football field,” he said. “It’s overlooking the situation overall and focusing on what I need to do to make myself a better quarterback.”
Vick completed 9 of 10 passes Thursday night and also had a 14-yard scramble.
He’s run four series in two preseason games and thrown two passes that didn't end up in the hands of an Eagle, and one was on a Hail Mary.
Vick played only 12 snaps in last year’s preseason and never got into a rhythm, and the lack of work carried over into the regular season.
Now, he’s in a better rhythm than he’s been in probably since 2010.
“Just the flow of the way we prepare has me in a position where I feel like I can do it all,” Vick said. “That’s a good thing, but I don’t want to get too over-confident. I want to remain humble and continue to have the same work ethic that has put me in the position to feel like this team can go places, and I can go places with them.
“So I’m just going to show that I can be consistent and protect the football and do the small things, and when you can do that, it usually adds up into things you can be proud of, the big things.”
“You just have to keep working hard, and when you do that, you get the results that you want. But I can’t be satisfied with this performance tonight. It’s a long season, and we’ve got a lot of work to do, and I understand that and I won’t lose sight of that.”
This is an unusual quarterback competition in a lot of ways.
Foles said after the game Thursday night that he’s rooting for Vick and is happy when he makes big plays.
And Vick said he hasn’t stopped working with Foles to help him become a better player.
“Myself and Nick, each and every day we come out with a plan -- how can we get better?” Vick said. “We learn from one another. Nick can tell you, I teach him everything I know. I teach Matt everything that I know. Dennis (Dixon), the same. Because when you believe in yourself and you know what you can do, nothing else matters.
“It means more to me to help these guys develop as quarterbacks in this league than anything else.”
And the quarterback competition? Vick said that’ll take care of itself.
“There comes a point where somebody has to start taking more reps, but that’s totally up to Coach Kelly and what he decides.
“If we’re going to continue to do it this way, we’ll keep doing it. We can’t dwell on the things that we have no control over.
“We need to keep focusing and not lose sight of the common goal, what’s the most important thing -- that’s winning football games, regardless of who’s behind the center, who’s out there.
“We’re going to win, and that’s the main priority around here, and we’re not going to stop until we do.”