Michael Vick was hit nine times in Week 1, second-most in the NFL, according to NFL.com. (USA Today Images)
For those who think Michael Vick should tone down on lead blocking, it’s in the hands of the schedule-makers now.
“It was Monday night. I figured, ya know, I’ll show off a little bit,” Vick quipped Wednesday after practice, when peppered with questions about his interloping as a fullback on a few LeSean McCoy runs against the Redskins. “The rest of our games are one o’clock so it might not be [nationally] televised, so I was just trying to give the people what they want to see.”
True, the Eagles are slated for only one more prime-time contest, next Thursday’s homecoming for Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
Maybe it’s good that they’re not scheduled to appear before a national audience again after that, because Vick didn’t sound like someone who believes a ruptured tendon or cracked limb is reason enough to avoid barreling into 300-pound lineman whenever he’s caught in between a McCoy cutback.
Even after coach Chip Kelly said Tuesday that he’d simply tell Vick to stop taking on linemen, Vick cautioned that “it might happen again.” (He might have been joking, but with him, you never know.)
“I try not to do it,” Vick said, “but just because the way we run the read-option, sometimes the ball gets cut back and I’m standing there, and I’m just not gonna let my teammate get hit by a guy. Maybe I’ll just get in the way next time and try to wall him off.”
Quarterbacks don’t usually sacrifice their bodies the way Vick did more than once Monday against the Redskins. But Vick was never like the other quarterbacks when he came into the NFL in 2001 as the No. 1 overall pick of the Falcons, and his perception of the job, however different it may be from theirs, hasn’t wavered.
“I’m a football player at the end of the day,” he said. “I am not just a quarterback, I’m a football player. I’ll do whatever it takes to win.”
Vick said he “took a couple of hits,” and he was visibly hobbling late Monday night after leading the Eagles' offense to 443 yards on 77 total plays. He practiced in full Wednesday and said the groin that he received treatment on wasn’t bothering him anymore.
Strangely, Vick said “it was good to get hit” after a relatively contact-free preseason. He credited the Redskins for not bending the new rule that now permits defenders to hit quarterbacks on read-option plays even if they don’t have the ball.
Vick said he watched Sunday’s game between the 49ers and Packers and saw the signature moment, when Packers linebacker Clay Matthews clotheslined Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the sideline well after Kaepernick had run out bounds.
“In this game you always gotta be alert,” he said. “As a quarterback, when you got those guys gunning for you and want to hit you, you have to just keep your head on a swivel and understand that you could be hit at any moment and not take anything lightly.
"Things are just gonna happen and you have to leave it in the hands of the referees.”
Those kind of hits are out of Vick’s control. The ones he absorbs at the end of a head-first dive or while trying to block for his running back are on Vick.
“The one thing that I admire about Mike is something that we've all seen. He's extremely tough, he's very competitive, and when the game is going on, he reacts to things like you want a football player to react,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “Now, we don't want him lead blocking on sweeps, and so we told him don't do that. So we assume he won't.
The key word there being “assume.” The problem coaches face in trying to convince Vick to ease up on the recklessness is Vick’s belief that his way is no more dangerous or riskier than his pocket-dwelling counterparts.
“I think you can get hurt at any point in the game,” Vick said. “Some guys have their worst injuries just staying in the pocket -- torn ACLs and stuff like that. Injuries is what happens in this game and there’s no way to prevent it. Every player is at risk on every play.”
Vick said he appreciates that his coaches aren’t giving ultimatums or trying to make wholesale changes at this stage of his career.
“Chip doesn’t bother me about the small [things] or nuances that people think I should change,” he said. “He leaves the ball in my court, and I understand that if I put my body in jeopardy or risk than I’m putting this football team at risk.
“It’s just something I have to gauge, and we’re not gonna try to change it at this point. I think I could make it through.”