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I believe there will be plays that McNabb and Vick are on the field together
Stafford has touch when he needs touch, a fastball when he needs a fastball
My thoughts after watching Denver-San Francisco, Seattle-San Diego
"You're killing me," responded Reid, via text to McNabb.
Fast forward to 7 a.m. Saturday, when Reid ducked his head into the Eagles' weight room, where McNabb and Vick were lifting together. Early Sunday morning, McNabb and Vick worked up a sweat side-by-side on two treadmills where the players work out.
I write this morning to dispel a myth and to illuminate the personal reality in Reid's life that led him to bringing the potentially combustible Vick onto this Super Bowl contender. I'm also here to tell you that Vick is most definitely going to play an important role on what the Eagles do on offense. I believe there will be plays in which McNabb and Vick will be on the field together, and some plays (though not as many) in which Vick will be at quarterback and McNabb will be out of the game.
That brings me to the myth of the weekend, the one in which people contend: No matter how sincere McNabb has seemed in backing Vick's return to the team, he couldn't really want him that badly. Why would one quarterback support the signing of another quarterback who might take his job?
I can't tell you all of the dynamics here, primarily because McNabb is not an open book. He's a tough nut to crack for any Philadelphia reporter; he simply doesn't want to reveal too much of himself. He's like Derek Jeter. You see him all the time and he looks affable in front of the cameras, but does he ever really say anything revealing?
In my conversation with Reid Sunday night, there was an earnestness and a convincing tone in his voice that told me McNabb seriously has wanted Vick to be a part of the Eagles from the moment he sent that text message. "So many of the old guys are gone now," Reid said. "Donovan is taking it upon himself to do something that he feels is best for the team and best for Michael. I'm telling you, this is totally on the level. He wants Michael here, and he wants him to succeed. Donovan is being the best big brother in the world."
Reid went on. "This all started with Donovan. And when the other leaders of the team saw Donovan embracing him and embracing the idea here the last couple of days, they followed him, and they embraced Michael too. They brought him into the family."
McNabb is scheduled to speak today at the Eagles' training complex in South Philly. It might be hard for him to convince a skeptical public that he was behind this from the start. But if I were him, I'd just start with the text message to Reid. What more proof do you want that McNabb legitimately wanted Vick on the team?
Now, about Reid's motivation to import Vick. It's logical to wonder whether the agonizing drug problems of Reid's two sons played a role in him acting as a Father Flanagan figure to Vick. Even Reid isn't sure how much of a role the drug problems of sons Britt and Garrett played in this story. But he learned one very important lesson from Britt's jail term; Britt Reid was in prison for drugs and weapons charges and is now out of jail. There are three phases that inmates who are successful in avoiding a return trip to jail go through. Phase one is blaming everyone else. Phase two is admitting that it's your own fault. Phase three is the vow to yourself that you hate jail, that you're going to avoid the behavior that got you in jail the first place, and you make a vow never to return.
So when Reid met with Vick as he was trying to determine whether to offer him a contract, the most important factor to him was whether Vick was in that third phase. Could he look in Vick's eyes during a couple of long meetings and be convinced that Vick would never go back to his dogfighting days. Reid knows that no one sells insurance for this, but after extensive talks with Vick and his mentor, Tony Dungy, Reid was sold.
Now Reid has to figure out what to do with Vick, the player. Over the weekend Vick played some scout-team quarterback and threw to receivers in individual drills.
"We haven't seen him run yet," said Ike Reese, who played mostly special teams in Philadelphia before moving to Atlanta in free agency in 2005. He played with Vick for two years with the Falcons. Now he is a talk-show host at WIP-AM in Philadelphia. "Throwing the ball, I thought he looked surprisingly good. He's always thrown a beautiful spiral and [Saturday] he threw two great deep balls to Jeremy Maclin. From the looks of it, he might have put on five or six pounds. He looks a little thicker up top. But that doesn't change what he is. For me, he's the ultimate Wildcat player. Who is better-suited to play the Wildcat position than Michael Vick?"
Reid is going to play his Vick-game-plan cards close to the vest for now. He was encouraged over the weekend that Vick knows much of the Eagles' base West Coast offense, like the snap count, some of the exact play calls and the footwork fundamentals. As for how he'll use him in games, Reid said: "I have an idea. I just need to see if Michael is in good-enough shape to do it. I think I know the situations I want to use him in."
The most likely scenario is for Vick -- who could be reinstated by Goodell anywhere between Week 1 and Week 6 -- to be used as either the quarterback, running back or slot receiver in a Wildcat offense or as a shotgun quarterback with or without McNabb at receiver.
As I wrote Thursday night, Vick will not complain about playing time. For now, he's in Philadelphia to master an offense and to get acclimated to football and society again. The Eagles are convinced that whether he plays three plays a game or 23 (highly unlikely unless McNabb goes into an extended slump), it won't matter to him.
There's one more thing that could play a part in whether Vick succeeds or fails. The negativity, the protests, the angry headlines, the livid dog owners ... will it be enough to penetrate the suit of public relations armor that Vick and his handlers have built to shield him in his return to public life? I don't care what anyone says. At some point, some fan or heckler in the street or some columnist is going to say something or write something that will make Vick fume.
"That's the big unknown," Reese said. "I wish I could tell you how Mike will react without his mentor [Dungy] or his teammates there for him. But I can't. Only time will tell. My advice to him is stay home or stay at the [Eagles] facility."
Reese gave Vick some good advice Saturday after his first practice with the team, "I told him, 'It's your time to fall in love with this game again.' When you're in the league for a little while, you get caught up in the business and the money side of it, and I think sometimes we do what we do for the wrong reasons. I just wanted to remind Michael he got into the game in the first place because he loved it. Remember that."
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