The Line Between Toughness and Avoiding Injury

The offensive line has to protect Michael Vick, who is helped up by Danny Watkins (63) left and right tackle Todd Herremans during a pres-season game against the PIttsburgh Steelers on Aug. 9. Photo by Webster Riddick

Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Michael Vick is a fierce  competitor, but showing how tough on every play could shorten his season.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun

What was supposed to a dress rehearsal for Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and the Eagles offense turned into an evening of alarm and outright panic for Eagles fans because Vick injured his ribs on a third-down play in Monday’s exhibition game against the New England Patriots that was just about everybody’s fault.

It was the second straight week that Vick has sustained some sort of injury. During the Eagles’ first exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago, the quarterback injured his thumb.

While those injuries aren’t serious enough to miss any significant time, the concern over Vick’s health in a 16-game season has some Birds fans hanging their heads in doom and gloom even though the regular season is about two  weeks away.

Eagles fans and those of us who cover them in the media point to Vick’s reckless style of play, the offensive line not protecting well, Vick holding the ball too long, not sliding after a run and trying to make a big play when all hell is breaking loose as the reasons to be concerned for his health in a long season.There’s only so much Vick’s smallish 6-foot frame can take.

The flipside of the collective worry for Eagles fans’regarding Vick’s health is that his aggressive approach to the game, his desire to make the big play and to not give up on a play when things break down is something that fans in tough, gritty blue collar Philadelphians usually admire about  their quarterback.

“That’s what you would think a competitor would do, never quit on a play,” said Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. “With Mike back there, you never know what’s going to happen. There could be five guys around him and he can break out the pocket and make a beautiful throw downfield. He never wants to lose,he wants to win in everything.”

Vick’s greatest virtue as a quarterback, his ability to extend plays with his legs and to create something out of nothing, can become not-so virtuous when defenders finally catch up to him and tackle him hard. While it may remind many of the “Michael Vick Experience” days in all the wrong ways, it has served Vick…and the Eagles…well for the most part.

“I don’t necessarily call it reckless, I just think he has a unique style of play,” Maclin said. “I think you get the best of both worlds with Mike as far as a guy who can read defenses and make throws and also a guy who can use his legs and run it out a little bit.”

As a quarterback, Vick has to learn that no matter how strong his arm is or how fast he can escape the rush of a linebacker, who runs a 4.6 40-yard dash, there are times when he has to get rid of the ball or take the slide.

Watching Vick on Monday against the Patriots on the play when he dove head first on a scramble instead of sliding like a baseball player, there was a part of me that cringed for his safety. But I also knew that Vick’s first inclination was probably to barrel into that guy for the first down.

If that was the case, I’m not mad about that because it shows me that this guy will do anything to win…and because he’s willing to take the hit to bring home the ultimate prize for Eagles fans…a celebratory Super Bowl Championship parade down Broad Street…fans shouldn’t be mad either.

As some who has seen footage of John Elway diving into the Green Bay Packers defensive line in the Super Bowl, legendary Baltimore Colts quarterback John Unitas throwing hard blocks at Hall of Fame linebackers like the Green Bay Packers Willie Davis and Washington Redskins middle linebacker Sam Huff, I like Vick’s competitiveness. While some Eagles fans, a group best known for seeing the glass as not only half empty, but also broken in a thousand pieces on the floor, may see the dings he gets as proof of being injury-prone, I see them as proof of his fearlessness as a competitor.

You would think that a city that heaped all kinds of praise on former Phillies center fielder Aaron Rowand for bloodying his nose against the center field fence, admired tough guys like Joe Frazier, who wasn’t afraid to take a punch to knock you out,and adored images of Bobby Clarke with no teeth,would appreciate that from it’s football team’s quarterback.

If Vick worried about getting hurt as much as Eagles fans would like him to, the doubt that comes with that would put him on the slow boat to injured reserve for sure.

But while Vick can’t think about getting hurt when he‘s on the field because he’s less effective when he’s less aggressive, he might also want to consider some advice that he got from the Football Fan In Chief, President Barack Obama, over the summer.

You see, President Obama, a guy that knows a little something about having people with ill intent coming after you all of the time, said that Vick might want to slide instead of run every once in a while.

If the idea is to make it the Super Bowl, that bit of Presidential Advice might be good for Vick to heed.



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