WHEN TWITTER follower @candisrm29 saw that Michael Vick did some onfield work at practice yesterday, she declared that if Vick plays this week in Tampa, "the Sports Science Coordinator was trained at Hogwarts."
Reporters haven't been allowed to speak with Eagles sports science coordinator Shawn Huls since Chip Kelly brought Huls aboard early in the offseason. We don't know whether he speaks Parseltongue. We don't know what might have been bracing Vick's left hamstring yesterday under those baggy, gray sweatpants, what exotic elixirs and magical machinery might be at work behind the NovaCare curtain.
We do know there was a definite sense in the first 24 hours after Vick pulled his hammy in Sunday's victory at the Giants that the quarterback probably would miss a week or even 2. Some reporters cited a league source saying as much.
So yesterday's practice, after which Vick proclaimed he was surprised at everything he'd been able to do, might have been just a show put on for the Bucs' benefit. Vick did not take part in the team drills. Nick Foles ran the offense. But a quarterback who supposedly has been unofficially ruled out for Sunday getting out there, jogging, dropping back, and pushing off to throw the football on Tuesday is a noteworthy sight. So we're making note of it. Due diligence. Caveat emptor.
Vick said, "I feel a lot better than I did on Sunday," when he grabbed his leg at the end of a second-quarter run. "It was kind of agonizing. It was tough. It was hard to deal with. I'm glad that I'm where I'm at today."
"I was very surprised to be able to go out and move around, throw the football and throw it with some velocity and still move the way I was able to . . . I just gotta keep working."
Vick said he doesn't know whether he'll be able to play against the Bucs.
"I did the most that I could," Vick said. "I'm still tender in some spots, but I'll get treatment every day and work on it."
Vick, like Kelly the day before, said he did not know the grade of his strain.
Foles said "it felt good" getting reps with the starters.
Asked whether he expects to start Sunday, Foles said his expectation was that he would do the work to be ready for whatever role he might play.
Foles' only NFL victory as a starter came last Dec. 9 at Tampa, when he threw a "walkoff" touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin on the final snap.
"It was definitely special," Foles said yesterday. "It was a tough season for everyone. It was coach [Andy] Reid's last year here, so it was nice to get that win for him. For me, it was my first and only one. It felt really good just to end the game like that."
Foles acknowledged that "deep down, I always want to start a game . . . [but] it's very important to be a great teammate. Mike's done a great job."
Underneath this sunny, upbeat surface, a lot is going on. Management does not seem to have written off Foles as the quarterback of the future - but to keep the Eagles from trying to draft a QB this spring, Foles needs to play this season and prove he can be a franchise guy. Meanwhile, Vick is here on a 1-year deal, at least partly because of his inability to stay healthy. If he is going to forge a future here, he needs to minimize his time on the sideline.
"I can't worry about that. I hope [Foles] plays well," Vick said yesterday. "That's my teammate, a great friend of mine, somebody I root for, whether it's now or down the road."
Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said yesterday what offensive coordinators always say in these situations - that "we're going to function the same way regardless of who's playing quarterback."
The Eagles seemed to really struggle running the ball after Vick went down Sunday. Kelly and a couple of offensive linemen said that was because of an adjustment the Giants made up front, which made them trickier to block, not because Foles was less of a running threat than Vick, who gained 79 yards on seven carries against the Giants. Shurmur said the Eagles were able to run in the preseason just as well with Foles in charge as with Vick.
"We're going to play one of the top defenses in the league," Shurmur said of the Bucs, who are allowing 17.5 points per game. "They're different in style from the Giants. The Giants were probably bigger and more physical inside. This is a fast defense that runs around, and so it's going to be important for us to block movement."
Shurmur said in preparation for Sunday, the coaching staff watched Foles' 2012 victory at Tampa. Shurmur was coaching the Cleveland Browns then, so this was the first time he'd seen it.
"I thought he battled all the way through it," Shurmur said. Foles completed 32 of 51 passes for 381 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions that day. "It was a gritty performance . . . The Eagles were dealing with a lot of injuries, so there were a lot of so-called role players in there playing a lot. And he led the team to victory. And that's really what you rate your quarterback on."
One of those role players who played with Foles in Tampa was wideout Riley Cooper (four catches, 37 yards). Cooper is a starter now, thanks to the season-ending knee injury suffered by Maclin, who caught that winning pass last year.
"The drive to win it. The last play to win it. That's what I remember," Cooper said yesterday. "He's just a natural leader, and he's a great quarterback."