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Vick back from injury, expects to have key role for Eagles

AS RECENTLY AS Wednesday, Michael Vick wasn't practicing and seemed unlikely to assume more than his emergency third quarterback role from last week, as the Eagles prepared for their first visit to Cowboys Stadium tomorrow.

Michael Vick greeets Donovan McNabb,right after he came in the
fourh quarter in Atlanta  ( Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer )
Michael Vick greeets Donovan McNabb,right after he came in the fourh quarter in Atlanta ( Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer )Read more

AS RECENTLY AS Wednesday, Michael Vick wasn't practicing and seemed unlikely to assume more than his emergency third quarterback role from last week, as the Eagles prepared for their first visit to Cowboys Stadium tomorrow.

But Vick's bruised quadriceps improved dramatically, and after practicing fully Thursday and yesterday, he seems poised to resume the small but vital role he performed against Atlanta and the Giants, before his injury.

"I feel like I made a lot of progress during the week," Vick said after an indoor workout with pumped-in crowd noise on New Year's Day. "I want to get out there and help out."

Eagles coach Andy Reid said Vick "right now" will be the second quarterback tomorrow, enabling him to enter the game at any time, as has usually been the case when Vick has been healthy.

"He's feeling good . . . We have a couple things in for him. I look forward to getting him back in there and playing," Reid said.

Vick was coming off his two most productive games of the season when he got hurt against San Francisco. Vick ran for a touchdown and threw for one at Atlanta, then ran for another and completed a 32-yard pass against the Giants. Since then he has been in the news only because of public backlash over his teammates voting him the Eagles' winner of the Ed Block Courage Award, after his recovery from what Vick acknowledges were self-inflicted problems, including a federal prison term for his role in a dogfighting operation.

"We'll have to see when I get out there," Vick said, when asked whether he has his burst of quickness back, the element he had seemed to finally rediscover just before getting hurt. "I really haven't tried to 'burst.' I will, come Sunday . . . I'm making progress on a day-to-day basis, so I feel like by Sunday, I'll probably be back to 100 percent."

Another injury victim, safety and kick returner Quintin Demps, also practiced fully and reiterated that his oft-resprained ankle will be good enough to allow him to reclaim the kickoff return job at Dallas. Rookie Macho Harris had some misadventures in that spot Sunday against Denver, fumbling twice, losing one, a miscue that led to Denver's final touchdown. Special-teams coordinator Ted Daisher was cautious Thursday about projecting Demps back into the role.

Mining for Cole

If guard-turned-center Nick Cole handles Dallas nose tackle Jay Ratliff tomorrow as effectively as Cole stonewalled reporters this week, the Birds should win the NFC East.

Cole moved from right guard to center Sunday when Jamaal Jackson went down with a season-ending knee injury. After the game, he matter-of-factly discussed the situation.

"It wasn't too tough, it was [more a problem] of getting back in the groove, getting used to it," Cole said. "Making [protection] calls, making sure everybody's on point. We're used to [shuffling]. We've got guys ready to step in and do what they have to do."

Cole has avoided talking to the media ever since, though, flatly denying an interview request through an Eagles spokesman on Wednesday, then arranging not to be in the locker room when reporters were present Thursday and yesterday.

This will be Cole's first start at center, though he has appeared in all 63 games since he made the team as an undrafted free agent in 2006. Cole has started every game this season, six at left guard, nine at right guard, where he solidified what had been an-up-and-down rotation of Max Jean-Gilles and Stacy Andrews. Jean-Gilles will start at right guard against the Cowboys.

Cole, 6-0, 350, might be the lowest-profile Eagles regular, which is how he likes it. In a Daily News interview earlier this season, he said Eagles fans rarely recognize him on the street.

"Sometimes people ask if I play football," Cole said. "I just tell 'em 'no.' ''

Reid said yesterday Cole has done a good job this week handling his increased responsibilities at center.

"He handled it well with the noise that we used this week," Reid said.

Second sight

As you might have heard or read this week, Andy Reid is 6-5 against Dallas in the first meeting of the season, 8-2 in the second meeting. Reid said yesterday he was unaware of the stat, which is a pretty remarkable one, given the changes in both teams' personnel and the fact that Reid has matched wits with four different Cowboys coaches - Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips.

One constant has been that Reid's teams consistently play better the second half of the season, against everybody. The Eagles are 33-13 in December under Reid, 15-5 in December against the NFC East. Since 2006, they are 18-5 if you combine December with January.

Another constant is Donovan McNabb, of course, though Jeff Garcia memorably authored the 23-7 Christmas Day win at Dallas in 2006.

Birdseed

In the Nov. 8 home loss to Dallas, Donovan McNabb posted his worst passer rating of the season, 61.4 . . . Andy Reid indicated Brian Westbrook's role will increase tomorrow, in his second game back from concussion problems . . . OL Dallas Reynolds, promoted from the practice squad this week in the wake of Jamaal Jackson's knee injury, has a brother named Houston. He said yesterday there is no connection with either Texas city. His mother "just liked the sound of it," he said. Reynolds is from Utah and played at Brigham Young . . . Reid said he hadn't focused much on how Cowboys Stadium might be different from Texas Stadium, with the Eagles making their first visit to the new venue. "It's really all about the game and playing it," not the surroundings, he said . . . If Eagles win tomorrow, they win the NFC East and get a first-round playoff bye. If they lose, they are one of the two NFC wild-card teams.

For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.