THE PHRASE "by any means necessary" carried an implied threat when Malcolm X used it nearly 50 years ago. Through peaceful means or through violence, Malcolm intended to win the battle for human rights and dignity.

Same phrase, very different context yesterday. Michael Vick was asked what happens if he doesn't win the competition to become the Eagles' starting quarterback, a post he has held since 2010. It's easy to speculate that Vick and the team might be more comfortable with Vick shipped elsewhere, rather than having him pace the sideline at age 33 while Nick Foles or Matt Barkley plays.

"I'd continue to support this team," Vick said. "I'm here for one reason - to help this team win football games . . . by any means necessary, whatever it takes. If I have to watch film with all the quarterbacks, or if I have to coach the quarterbacks one day, that's what I'll do. I can do it."

Of course, we're a long way from such a scenario becoming reality, but new coach Chip Kelly had to be happy that there was no implied threat in Vick's response - no "I want to play," or "I know I can be a starting quarterback in this league." Just a vow to help.

Like Foles and Barkley when they spoke with reporters the day before, Vick spoke of believing in himself, as the Eagles begin training camp without a defined starting QB for the first time since 1997.

Kelly joked yesterday that his depth chart "is written in sand." He said he will name a starter before installing the game plan for the Sept. 9 opener at Washington, so we'll have at least several days' notice before the season starts, maybe a week or so.

"From now on, until my career's over, until I stop playing the game of football, I'm going to compete every day," Vick said. "I love that part about football. I love the competition aspect . . . I love the game that I play, and I think that supersedes everything."

After the Eagles finished 4-12 last season and fired Andy Reid, the coach who brought Vick to Philadelphia, the widespread assumption was that Vick would move on as well. Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman surprised many fans by reworking Vick's long-term deal into a 1-year pact that could earn Vick $10 million but guarantees him only $3.5 million, until he makes the team. Even then, his base is $7 million, with the other money dependent on Vick starting.

Vick was asked if he thought he would be the starter when he agreed to stay.

"I came back to play for coach Kelly," Vick said. "That was it. I'd heard a lot about him, I'd watched Oregon, and I just felt like this was the best opportunity for me, and I chose it. Regardless of what the fate may be, I'm still going to compete, I'm still going to try to be the best quarterback I can be, and I'm still learning every day. I feel like I've got a lot left in my tank."

Early last month, as the Birds wrapped up their spring work, Vick acknowledged he did not enjoy splitting first-team reps with Foles. He said he hoped Kelly would name a starter before camp, at least partly so Vick wouldn't have to answer the same questions day after day.

Kelly made it clear he wouldn't be naming a starter any time soon, that he wanted to see "live" practices and even preseason games before making the decision. Asked if the QBs wouldn't find that frustrating, Kelly said: "That doesn't bother me."

Fast-forward about 6 weeks. There Vick stood yesterday, answering those same, tiresome questions. When the first full-squad practice begins Friday, he is expected to split first-team reps with Foles.

"Keep leading, keep playing, stay consistent," Vick said yesterday, when asked what he thinks it will take to win the job. "Any coach wants that from their quarterback - consistency, leadership and getting it done. Belief from all the guys. We all believe in ourselves. It's great that Nick feels [he'll win], I feel the same way, and I'm sure if you said that to coach Kelly, he'd be pretty happy to hear he has two quarterbacks who feel they can run his football team."

Foles wasn't fazed Monday when asked about wideout DeSean Jackson's endorsement of Vick last week as the likely starter (a development that came just before Jackson signed with Vick's agent, Joel Segal). When Vick was asked about Jackson's words yesterday, he downplayed them.

"It's no advantage" to have such support, Vick said. "We have to come out here every day and prove in practice that we're worthy of lining up behind that center. And that still doesn't tell the tale; game time is a different feel . . . None of the talk is going to determine who's going to be the quarterback.

"Whether it was myself or Nick, or whoever it may be, DeSean will support Nick. Jeremy Maclin will support Nick. They will support me. They'll support Matt Barkley or G.J. [Kinne] or whoever is lining up behind the center."

A few minutes earlier yesterday, Kelly had told reporters that Vick "came in in great shape . . . spent a lot of time here in the offseason and worked extremely hard with guys like [Jeremy] Maclin and [Jason] Avant."

Vick said he'd added about 4 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot, 215-pound frame.

"Just trying to put my body in the best position possible to withstand the hits. Everybody says I'm injury-prone, so I'm trying to fight that," he said.

Vick has missed at least three games every year he has been the Eagles' starter.

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian