Michael Vick, here running on Aug. 15 against Carolina, has completed 13 of 15 passes this preseason for 199 yards with a TD and an INT (on a Hail Mary). (USA Today Images)
It didn’t take long for Michael Vick to serve notice to other NFL coaches that he’s still explosive, still dangerous, still capable of shredding your defense with back-breaking scrambles on top of 80-yard touchdown bombs.
Three days after Vick was named the first starting quarterback of the Chip Kelly era, outlasting Nick Foles, the veteran proudly boasted about his potential as a dual-threat quarterback in an offense catered to his playmaking.
“I’m going to have my opportunities to do what I like to do in this offense and to run the football,” he said. “And, yes, I will be a threat. That’s exciting, that’s what I’ve worked hard this offseason for. I’ve built the strength up in my legs to be able to do that.”
With an eye this offseason on leading the new coach’s up-tempo and spread offense, Vick put more hours into the weight room and more strange substances into his body, like vitamins and green vegetables.
Kelly said the strength and conditioning staff ranked Vick No. 1 among all Eagles in weight-room categories and Vick joked about a workout routine of 1,000 pushups and 1,000 situps daily (up from the 500 he reported Tuesday), using his infamous victory over LeSean McCoy in a 40-yard sprint in the spring to pad his resume.
“Every facet of what you've asked him to do since he's been here he's been outstanding at,” Kelly said.
Vick’s enthusiasm about his running potential even after missing 13 games since the start of 2010 because of injuries is less staggering than his admission that some of those bumps and bruises may have been the result of improper training.
Nobody has ever questioned the quarterback’s physique or conditioning, but Vick said he played underweight and without the diet and nutrition that fit the job demands. On Tuesday, receiver DeSean Jackson had giggled when pointing out that Vick had actually been spotted eating salad.
“Oh man, he’s eating better, he’s eating healthy, he’s eating salads,” Jackson gushed. “I can go on and on.”
Vick said he and Jeremy Maclin were the only Eagles in the weight room every day during the season, each with an eye on flourishing in Kelly’s attack.
“Knowing how things ended up last year, I wanted to make it right,” Vick said. “One thing I do know is that if you train hard and put in hard work, you’ll get the results out of it. I just didn’t want to leave any stones unturned.”
Vick said he hoped the extra muscle and improved health would allow his 33-year-old body to absorb the punishment that comes with leading Kelly’s offense for a 16-game season. He mentioned an increased vitamin intake and “feeding my body calcium like never before.”
“I’m just trying to do things that give me an edge,” he added. “Will that allow me to take certain hits? I don’t know. I still have to protect myself. That’s most important. I have to be very cautious.”
If that sort of sounds contradictory to his enthusiasm about remaking himself into a dangerous weapon, well, that’s the Vick we’ve come to know over the past three years.
“You’ve got to take on a certain mindset that you’ve got to play the game all-out,” Vick later said. “I think when you go into a football game not wanting to get hurt or trying not to get hurt, it doesn’t allow you to play the way that you want to play.
“I’ve had seasons where I went all out and played as hard as I could. Even when I ran for 1,000 yards, I played all 16 games, but I played with a different mindset and I had a goal. So I think it’s just all about your mindset and what you set out to do. I’m not holding anything back.”
Vick teased the media about exaggerating the frequency of his injuries, forcing him to “change the way I played the game.” The reality is that coach Andy Reid grew tired of relying too heavily on the Kevin Kolbs and Vince Youngs of the league to lead his offense while he was trying like heck to win a Super Bowl.
Then there was the rising number of turnovers that piled up as the hit toll on Vick skyrocketed. Thirty-three giveaways over the past two seasons by Vick alone, to be exact.
During a time when the mobile quarterbacks were beginning to manifest back into the league, Reid and his staff worked hard to develop Vick’s pocket presence and limit the kind of plays that could end up with Vick at the bottom of a pile.
Vick said mobile quarterbacks are more accepted and sought after nowadays and noted playoff runs last year by the 49ers, Seahawks and Redskins last year behind the new wave of dual-threat quarterbacks. But he has no regrets about the old regime’s approach.
“I’m proud of the stages I’ve went through in my career, being able to work with Andy and Marty [Mornhinweg]. I’ve learned so much in the passing game,” he said.
“When I first got here to Philadelphia, I was nowhere near the passer that I am now. So that, in conjunction with what I can do with my legs, it only helps. And I’m going to keep continuing to use that to my advantage as long as I’m in this league.”
Or until he decides to be cautious.