Philadelphia Eagles

Mike Vick wants starter named before camp

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Mike Vick wants starter named before camp

Mike Vick has an unrealistic request for Eagles coach Chip Kelly. Name a starting quarterback before the start of training camp.

“Hopefully, Chip makes a decision before training camp and we won’t have to answer that question,” Vick told CSNPhilly.com, “so we can go out there as quarterbacks and just focus on this season and not answer questions about competition every day.”

The quarterback battle between Vick and Nick Foles will be the dominant daily storyline at training camp this summer as the Eagles conduct their first open competition at the game’s most important position in 15 years.

Kelly, hired in January to replace the fired Andy Reid, has repeatedly said he wouldn’t be hurried into to declaring a starter and has said honest personnel decisions at any position can’t be made until the pads come out.

The Eagles wrapped up their final minicamp practice Thursday and won’t reconvene for practice at the NovaCare Complex as a full team until training camp starts July 26. Vick and Foles split first-team reps about 50-50 throughout the minicamps and both faced several questions about the impending competition.

Asked if tension could mount between he and Foles as the competition plays out this summer, Vick said, “Yeah, but hopefully we’ll have an answer by then, so I’m not going to answer that.

“I won’t want to continue to answer those questions. I won’t continue to answer those questions until Chip makes a decision.”

Reminded that Kelly has frequently said no timetable exists for the coaches to make a decision, Vick said, “Then I’m not gonna answer any questions.”

Dodging questions about the No. 1 theme of training camp could potentially bring some criticism his way, from media and fans. Many of Vick’s teammates will also be asked to weigh in on the race.

Vick isn’t concerned about any backlash that may come from being selective with questions he will answer.

“Why not? Who cares?” he said. “Y’all [in the media] kill me anyway, whether it’s right or wrong.”

A few moments later, Vick was approached again to make sure he understood that his comments were on the record. He responded by asking the reporter to print his request that Kelly settle on a starter before camp to avoid the rampant speculation.

“There’s better things to talk about,” Vick added.

Vick’s aspirations to be named the starter before camp directly contradicts Kelly’s repeated claims that he can’t evaluate positions without seeing his team in pads and simulating real game speed.

After the final camp practice, Kelly reiterated that his picture of the team is still highly incomplete.

“We have an understanding of their athletic ability and how they run, change direction and things like that. But there are still a lot of things to be evaluated when you put the pads on,” he said. “It's still a physical game. A lot of guys look great in shorts and T‑shirts, then they disappear when you put the pads on. Until we get the pads on, we can't tell.”

Perhaps Vick thought that he had already won the job when he accepted a major pay cut to preserve his roster spot. Vick restructured his deal in the offseason and stands to make $3.5 million in base salary this year, compared to Foles’ $500,000 salary. Sources close to Vick have always felt that he resigned with the idea that he would eventually be named the starter.

But in the months that have since passed, Kelly has not only reiterated that his quarterback competition would be open and expansive and that his offense didn’t need mobility from the quarterback but the team also drafted former USC quarterback Matt Barkley and added him to the race.

Barkley worked with the third team all throughout camp but Kelly has advised that reps and personnel groupings have meant nothing so far.

Moments before talking to a CSNPhilly.com reporter in the NovaCare Complex hallway, Vick had already expressed some honest frustration about splitting reps with Foles during the camps.

“It’s tough,” he said. “I have to continue to be a professional and put my feelings and emotions to the side, and just continue to compete. But it’s hard. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t, but that’s just what I have to deal with, and I’m going to keep dealing with it until I see otherwise.”

Vick’s remarks that he wouldn’t answer questions at camp pertaining to the quarterback battle doesn’t mean the quarterback plans to boycott the media.

Vick will answer all other questions and speak to the media as often as he usually does, according to a team spokesperson who talked to Vick about those comments made to CSNPhilly.com.

Since joining the Eagles in 2009 after serving a prison sentence for his role in funding a dog-fighting circuit, Vick has been one of the team’s most approachable and accommodating players.

Not since 1997, when Ty Detmer and Rodney Peete entered camp as sparring partners for the quarterback job, have the Eagles opened training camp without a clear No. 1. The advent of social media promises to bring a festival of attention on Vick and Foles. All of their passes will be chronicled, dissected, reported on and discussed through media reports and sports-talk radio.

Asked if the swarm of attention is good preparation for handling the responsibilities that come with being the franchise face, Foles said his attention has to be centered on the team, not handling the media.

“It can’t be on answering every single question,” he said. “We will do that, but at the same time our job is to play well and win games.”

Alshon Jeffery gives Eagles glimpse of new-look offense's potential in 1st full-squad practice

Alshon Jeffery gives Eagles glimpse of new-look offense's potential in 1st full-squad practice

Carson Wentz didn’t learn too much about Alshon Jeffery during the skill position players’ trip to Wentz’s home in Fargo, North Dakota that he didn’t already know. He’s “soft-spoken” but a “quiet competitor,” Wentz said.

“What I really like is just getting to know him on the field and getting used to the way he gets in and out of breaks and the way he can go up and get a ball,” Wentz said.

If Wentz didn’t learn that last part in Fargo, he sure did Thursday during the Eagles’ first full-team practice at the NovaCare Complex (see camp notes). Jeffery snagged a tough pass along the sideline that caught plenty of attention. It’s the reason the team signed the 27-year-old wideout to a one-year, $14 million contract on the first day of free agency. It’s what he must do to give the Eagles’ offense the explosion it lacked last year.

The buzz term of the day was “catch radius.” Jeffery stands at 6-3 and his wingspan surpasses 80 inches. He owns some mighty paws. Since 2013, his second season, his 14.9 yards per catch ranks third in the NFL, and only three players have more receptions of 25 yards or more. 

He’s a big target, and the Eagles brought him here to make big plays.

“I just tell [Wentz] throw it somewhere and give me a chance. If it's anywhere close, I think I have a good opportunity,” Jeffery said.

“Having a guy like that really makes you play a lot more comfortably,” Wentz said.

“You don’t have to necessarily be pinpoint accurate down the field when you have a guy that can leap and high-point balls, and Alshon can do that,” head coach Doug Pederson said.

Jeffery’s body gives the offense, and Wentz in particular, some wiggle room. He does not need the perfect pass to make a catch. 

That held true on one play during Thursday’s “10-10-10” practice. The purpose of these practices is to run 10 offensive plays against a soft defense and then 10 defensive plays against a soft offense. 

The full pads weren’t on yet, and even Jeffery said his highlight play could’ve been better. Still, it was a sight to behold as the massive wide receiver went up high to snatch the ball out of the air along the sideline.

However, the day wasn’t all flashy highlights. Jeffery dropped a pass in the flat, and he was one of the last guys to stay on the field for extra reps from the jugs machine. 

There is work to be done, and he knows that.

“Everybody’s got talent in the NFL, so we just gotta keep working,” Jeffery said. “We just let the numbers and the stats take care of themselves.”

Jeffery said his connection with Wentz is getting better every day, but he didn’t want to anoint the new-look offense as this Super Bowl-deprived city’s savior. Yes, there is more talent here, especially at his position, then there was this time last year. And the current roster is capable of doing “something special.” Just not after one full-team practice.

“The sky's the limit for us,” he said. “We just have to keep building.”

That doesn’t mean the team is without a win-now attitude, according to fellow receiver Jordan Matthews (more on him here), who said he’s already seen a lot of hunger out on the field. But with the addition of Jeffery — and Torrey Smith, another deep threat, for that matter — are there enough passes to satisfy everyone’s appetite? Matthews said that’s not the way to look at it.

“If you go out there and see Torrey make a play, you see Alshon make a play, you're like, 'Well shoot, I better go out there and do something,'” Matthews said. “But that's a good thing.”

Jeffery said that Matthews, the team’s longest-tenured player at the position, is still the leader of the unit. He is the vocal one on the field, telling guys what to expect from the system and what to do on certain routes. Plus, he’s even the most active in the group chats, Jeffery said.

That receiving corps’ group chat has quite the different look compared to last season, and Jeffery is the biggest newcomer. What they’ll have to discuss 16 regular-season games from now remains to be seen. For now, the talking must be done through their efforts on the field.

“[We are] working to try to be the best,” Jeffery said. “Whatever it takes for us to win a championship.”

5 Minutes with Roob: Steven Means, the swimmer?

5 Minutes with Roob: Steven Means, the swimmer?

In today's "Five Minutes with Roob," Reuben Frank chats with Eagles defensive end Steven Means:

Roob: OK now, most of your teammates played football, played basketball, maybe baseball in high school. Your bio says you were actually a swimmer back at Grover Cleveland High School in Buffalo.

Means: I really didn’t swim. I swam one meet and they gave me the trophy. It was pretty bad. Freestyle relay. By the time it was time for me to jump in, everybody else was already done. Pretty bad. I can’t even tread water.

Roob: OK, so much for swimming. Let's talk football. You grew up in Buffalo and then went to the University of Buffalo. What went into that decision to stay home to play college football?

Means: I wanted to leave and my mom wanted me to leave — my dad didn’t really care — but my SAT scores kind of held back a lot of colleges and then once I qualified, other colleges came, but Buffalo stuck with me, and that loyalty meant a lot to me.

Roob: You played at Buffalo with a pass rusher, Khalil Mack, who went on to become a top-five pick of the Raiders in 2013 and made first-team All-Pro in each of the last two years. Are you guys still close and what was it like playing with him?

Means: Yeah, we’re definitely still close. None of what he’s done really surprised me. It’s about time he finally is getting the recognition he deserves. We saw it all the time in practice. We went against each other in practice sometimes, joked around a lot, real cool guy, real down to earth.

Roob: And you guys play Oakland this year, so you’ll see him.

Means: Yeah, Christmas. I told him I was going to tell the coaches to put me at tight end for that game.

Roob: The Buccaneers drafted you back in 2013 in the fifth round. What was that experience like?

Means: It was a learning experience down there, period. It really left … a bad taste in my mouth. 

Roob: Then they released you after opening day in 2014.

Means: That was tough, especially with the circumstances, with what happened behind closed doors. But now I’m happy it happened.

Roob: Then you had stints with the Ravens and Texans before the Eagles claimed you late in the 2015 season, so you actually were here at the tail end of the Bill Davis era as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Means: Playing linebacker kind of got me real comfortable in space, so any time we’ve got to drop as a defensive end, it’s second nature really. I practiced it in Tampa and then in Baltimore played a lot more and especially when I got here. 

Roob: Then Jim Schwartz comes in and installs his 4-3 front in 2016 and the Eagles keep you around. 

Means: Schwartz does a great job of keeping us real comfortable, keeping it real simple and keeping it fun. 

Roob: So you played a huge role in one of the Eagles’ biggest wins last year. The Vikings came in undefeated, but you guys beat them, and you had a sack on Sam Bradford for your first career sack and forced a fumble and you guys won, 21-10. You also had a blocked punt inside the Dallas 5-yard line in the win over the Cowboys on the last day of the season.

Means: Thank God for putting me in that position. Because clearly, normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have been in the game. Same way with the Cowboys. Just God blessing me with an opportunity and me making the most of it.

Roob: This is your fifth year in the NFL and your third season with the Eagles. What’s your mentality this summer as training camp gets underway here?

Means: Just get better every day. Every day take it one day at a time, don’t jump on anything too fast, don’t ever get complacent, just build on everything, try to perfect the little things, and everything will take care of itself.

Roob: It’s interesting that you’re still here when it was Chip Kelly that brought you in back in 2015. There aren’t a lot of guys left from that team.

Means: The camaraderie is real good. When coaching changes come, you really can’t get too hung up on that. Me, in the spiritual realm, I know that nobody has powers that God didn’t give them. If I’m supposed to be somewhere, I’m going to be there, no matter what.

Roob: Does that include the pool?

Means: That includes the pool, too, but I try to stay away from water.