PHILADELPHIA - Superman has become the handyman.
Michael Vick produced plenty of dazzling plays with the Atlanta Falcons. He's still waiting to do something special for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Vick's return to the NFL following a two-year absence has mostly been a dud. Except for a 34-yard run two weeks ago at Chicago, Vick hasn't done anything noteworthy in his first nine games.
The former Pro Bowl quarterback is heading back to Atlanta to play in the Georgia Dome for the first time since he served 18 months in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting ring. But he'll be a bit player on a field where for six seasons he was feared by NFL defences.
Vick probably will take a few snaps at quarterback and may even line up at wide receiver because the Eagles could be without DeSean Jackson, their top playmaker.
"Whatever you need me to do, I'm the handyman. I can make it happen," Vick said.
Vick has been saying all the right things this season, but his football future is uncertain. Unless his role expands, it's unlikely he'll be in Philadelphia in 2010 for US$5.2 million, the price on an option held by the Eagles. That's too much to pay a third-string quarterback and the Eagles have made it clear that Kevin Kolb, a far better passer who threw for more than 700 yards in two starts this season, is Donovan McNabb's backup.
But there are plenty of teams that need a starting quarterback, so Vick could get an opportunity somewhere else. Then again, he hasn't shown enough for a team to just hand him a starting job.
"I can't look that far down the road right now," Vick said. "I just got to focus on this team winning a Super Bowl and that's the most important thing. I think the future is going to take care of itself. I just have to continue to work as hard as I can and continue to help this team win in whatever way I can."
Vick's stats are measly. He's 3-for-9 passing for six yards, along with 15 carries for 65 yards, including two kneel-downs.
So much for all that talk about Vick being the ultimate weapon. When the Eagles signed Vick in mid-August, many considered him the ideal player to run the wildcat formation. Defences were supposed to shudder at the thought of Vick and McNabb being on the field together. People imagined Vick in the backfield or split wide and wondered about all the gimmicks he could run with McNabb.
It hasn't happened.
Instead, the Eagles simply take McNabb out and replace him with Vick. He's taken nearly all of his snaps behind centre, and he doesn't get many because coach Andy Reid and offensive co-ordinator Marty Mornhinweg don't want to disrupt the offence's flow. But Vick isn't complaining.
"It's been a great experience to just be here every day, to be around football, to continue to learn all the things I've missed and to be able to go out and practice every day, something I didn't have a year ago and two years ago," Vick said. "I'm just soaking it all in. I'm trying to get better each and every day, working on self development, personal development and my development on the field as a quarterback. I like the progress. I like where I'm at right now. I like the way I feel. I just thank the organization for giving me the opportunity."
Vick nearly scored his first touchdown of the season in Philadelphia's 27-24 win over Washington last week. He was tackled at the 1 after gaining 4 yards on a QB draw in the first quarter. Vick didn't sell the draw well, taking off without any hesitation after he took the shotgun snap.
Later in the quarter, he was stopped for no gain on third-and-one from the Redskins 42. The Eagles then converted on McNabb's sneak on fourth down.
Vick came in again in the fourth quarter with Philadelphia trailing 24-16. McNabb had just completed two straight passes to Jason Avant for 66 yards to put the ball at the Redskins 24. On first down, Vick rolled out and missed a wide-open Brent Celek. He left the field to a smattering of boos.
"He's not the problem there," Reid said. "I'm sure the guys will tell you we could have blocked a little bit better on his short-yardage run. He probably could've done a little better job on his quarterback draw, just pulling it for another step. He's excited to get a touchdown I think. Everybody has been giving him a bad time about scoring a touchdown here, so he was a little anxious on that one and the throw was off by a hair. It will be fine. He's fine."
While there's been little to celebrate on the field, Vick's return has been successful in other ways. Off the field and in the locker room, he's been a model citizen. He's popular among his teammates and has kept himself out of the spotlight.
"Our guys have rallied around Michael and they like him as a person and they know what kind of football player he is," Reid said.
Vick also has spent time working with the Humane Society of the United States, speaking to school and community groups about the mistakes he made in getting involved in dogfighting.
"I've just been trying to get the message out there that what I did is wrong, and I'm trying to keep people from going down the same path that I went down, believing the same things I believed in," Vick said. "Just to let them know that you don't have to fall into that trap. I just want to keep as many people as I can from doing what I've done. I think it's been working. I think the message has reached across the world, and I'm excited about that."
Philadelphia Eagles, NFL, Atlanta Falcons Humane Society of the United States
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