"We practiced extremely hard this offseason, trained extremely hard, had great OTAs, a great training camp, a great preseason, and we are ready to go."
- Michael Vick, on Sept. 7, 2012, as the Eagles prepared for the opening of what became a 4-12 season. Earlier that week, he said: "Now it's all about seizing the moment."
MICHAEL VICK answered the questions patiently yesterday, but the Eagles' quarterback seemed twitchy, almost jittery on the podium standing under a tent next to the NovaCare practice field.
This was the first full day of practice leading up to Monday night's opener at Washington, the start of the Chip Kelly era, and Vick clearly couldn't wait to get going. Of course, if you go back and look through the quote sheets from this time last year, Vick couldn't wait to get going then, either, on his mission to save Andy Reid's job. And the year before that, he couldn't wait to get going, after faltering in the playoffs at the end of a season of redemption in 2010.
Two things Vick never lacks are confidence and optimism. Both were intact yesterday.
"I'm very excited about it. Our team is excited," Vick said, when asked about debuting in the national spotlight, against Robert Griffin III. "We've still got a week of hard work, a lot of work to do, a lot of mistakes to clean up. It never changes, the feeling is always the same."
The feeling is the same, but the result can be different, Vick and the Eagles hope.
Vick's health is one key. Vick and RGIII were questioned yesterday about the read option and the idea that defenses will target hitting the quarterback every time he runs or fakes. Griffin III said such talk sounds ominously like a bounty system to him, which was a calculated response meant to lay groundwork with the NFL discipline police. But of course, hitting a quarterback executing a fake is not a penalty, and Griffin knows that.
"It's football," Vick said. "You're going to get hit. If you go into a game knowing you're going to get hit, it's easier to deal with. [Quarterbacks coach] Bill Lazor told us about a week ago, if you get your mind set on being hit, at some point in the game, it'll be easier to go out and play . . . It's up to the referees to decide whether it's a penalty or not."
This is a lot like what Vick said last year, right up until Nov. 11, when the Dallas Cowboys bounced Vick's head off the turf on back-to-back plays at Lincoln Financial Field and Vick suffered a concussion that sidelined him until the season finale.
"Any quarterback has to be prepared for hits if they're carrying out fakes," Kelly said. "That's just the rule in the game . . . We talked to Mike about that. We didn't see anything in the preseason that would make us nervous about [opponents] teeing off on a guy that doesn't have the ball in his hands . . . Mike understands that people are going to run at him when he's carrying out fakes . . . That is the same thing for RGIII, too."
Is there anything Kelly can do to minimize this?
"They've got to catch you first, right? So carry out your fake, run really fast," he said.
Vick was extraordinary the first two games of this preseason, while competing for the starting job with Nick Foles, completing 13 of 15 passes. He looked quite different against a much savvier, more active defense in the third game, in Jacksonville, Vick completing 15 of 23 passes while throwing an interception that brought back all of the bad memories from the past two seasons.
"You gotta roll with it," Vick said. "Obviously, we know there are going to be a lot of different looks . . . We're gonna get it all . . . You're gonna see guys flying around, we're going to see different looks. We're prepared for that."
Of course, Vick and Kelly hope they can provide some different looks. Wideout DeSean Jackson and running back LeSean McCoy hinted yesterday that the Birds didn't show much of their hand in the preseason, that they have plenty of surprises to spring.
"There's been a lot of plays that have been hidden, that we haven't been running," Jackson said.
Vick was more restrained.
"We're still doing a lot of things we did in the preseason. Spicing it up a little bit," he said. "Different formations, guys put in different spots. Without saying too much, I think you'll notice the difference. It should help us with our execution."
That was tantalizing. More read option? Reporters get to watch only the warmup part of practice now, so we don't know. The Redskins, coach Mike Shanahan told a conference call with Philadelphia-area reporters, have looked at Oregon tape to prepare and are well aware there could be surprises.
"Everybody holds back in the preseason," Shanahan said, when asked about watching the Eagles in August.
Shanahan said when he thought of Kelly's Oregon teams, he thought of "great team speed, on both sides of the ball. You could tell that they were very sound, and they knew what they were doing."
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