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The injured Michael Vick looks on from the bench during the Eagles' 31-20 win over the Buccaneers on Sunday. (AP)
TAMPA, Fla. -- Michael Vick looked as happy and content as the rest of his teammates in the locker room after the Eagles had put the finishing touches on a significant road win in Tampa that evened their record (see Instant Replay).
If you thought Vick felt Nick Foles’ shadow loom larger after the backup accounted for four touchdowns against a top-10 scoring defense and spearheaded the Eagles’ 31-20 win, think again.
“Not at all,” he said. “Nick’s a great player. He does exactly what he needs to do when he goes out on the field. That’s not something I’m going to worry about. I’m going to worry about getting healthy.”
But the question is relevant, especially after Chip Kelly kept the door slightly ajar on Foles’ candidacy to usurp Vick for the starting job (see story). Given the chance to say Vick was the starter when healthy, Kelly instead dodged the question, insisting that personnel decisions aren’t made moments after a game.
Vick hardly seemed like someone feeling his grip loosen and said he and Kelly haven’t discussed the 33-year-old quarterback’s job security.
“We haven’t talked about that,” he said. “It’s no need to talk about it. We’ve got to go with momentum. We’ve got to go with the flow of the game. As players, we do what we’re asked to.”
For now, Vick’s primary concern is the hamstring that he pulled against the Giants and the road to full recovery, which on Saturday he said could be long (see story). His status for Sunday’s NFC East showdown against the Cowboys at the Linc remains uncertain.
Although he practiced last week, sometimes on a limited basis, and could have potentially played in an emergency role against the Bucs, Vick said he’s still playing it safe.
“You’ve just got to be cautious with an injury like this,” he said. “If you go out there and stress it out, then you hurt yourself for the next two weeks. I’ve just got to make sure I’m 100 percent.”
Asked if he’s certain he could play against the Cowboys, Vick said, “I can’t say right now.”
If he’s not ready for Dallas, Foles will get the nod. If he’s ready, Kelly has suggested in the past that Vick would start regardless. If his hamstring remains an issue, Vick has no problem throwing his support behind Foles until the injury is fully recovered.
“Yeah, you know you’ve got a quarterback behind you who can play,” Vick said, “who can go out there and get the job done and the team believes in him, the guys believe in him, the coaching staff believes in him. You don’t have to rush. You don’t have to stress it out and make it even worse.”
Foles completed 22 of 31 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns for a 133.3 passer rating (see story), the highest passer rating of his seven career starts and the highest by an Eagles starter this year.
The Eagles scored touchdowns on their first two red-zone trips (going 2 for 3 total), an area where the offense struggled under Vick. Riley Cooper broke out with his first career 100-yard game, and the screen suddenly became a deadly weapon in the offense.
Naturally, the talk around town this week will center on which QB deserves to start when the playing field is even. Lines will be drawn across several factions and debates will be waged on sports-talk radio and online.
Inside the locker room, though, the debate seemed settled.
“I don't think it would have mattered who started this game,” center Jason Kelce said. “I think we would have came out on top. I think Nick did a great job, made some spectacular throws downfield, but I think Mike would have made those throws as well.
“We, honestly, don’t get too caught up with the media, especially when it comes to who they think should be the starter, and fans, who they think should be the starter. We’re confident in both quarterbacks. Bottom line is, we feel we can be successful with both of them. I don’t think it’ll be a problem at all.”
Running back LeSean McCoy likewise dismissed the idea of a brewing quarterback controversy.
"C’mon, I mean, we just won a game,” he said upon hearing the question. “We have two starting quarterbacks, yes, Mike Vick and Nick Foles. They both can play. Mike is the starter. Coach Kelly made that clear, but if he needs Nick to step in and make some plays he’ll do that.
“But Mike is the guy we go with. He’s the starting quarterback, no matter what this town says or what outsiders want. It was Coach Kelly’s call and that’s the call he’s made."
About that opinion of a town that tends to be, well, overly opinionated? McCoy said Vick’s ready for the skeptics.
“Nobody wants to go through that, but I mean, it’s Philadelphia,” he said, “you gotta be tough.”