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Falcons lose Vick

Star QB to miss at least six weeks with broken fibula

Posted: Saturday August 16, 2003 8:58 PM
Updated: Sunday August 17, 2003 12:18 AM
  Mike Vick, Adalius Thomas If all goes well, Michael Vick might return in time for a Week 5 matchup against Minnesota. AP

ATLANTA (AP) -- Atlanta star Michael Vick fractured his right fibula Saturday night in an exhibition loss to Baltimore, and Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the quarterback will be sidelined at least six weeks.

The Ravens (1-1) held off Atlanta 13-10 despite a 67-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Falcons rookie Bryan Scott with 1:51 left. After Atlanta recovered an onside kick, third-string quarterback Kurt Kittner threw an interception, sealing the Falcons' second loss in two games.

Baltimore rookie Kyle Boller, battling Chris Redman and Anthony Wright for the starting quarterback job, threw a 1-yard TD pass to Terry Jones Jr. in the third quarter, and Matt Stover added two field goals.

Blank said Vick wouldn't have surgery. If Vick's out six weeks, he'll miss the first four games of the regular season and would return Oct. 5 against Minnesota.

"This team will have to pull together, and we'll all have to play at a little higher level than they were going to before," Blank said. "But they have the capacity to do that."

Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb had a similar injury last year and was out two months.

"I am terribly disappointed," Vick said in a statement. "But this is the ultimate team sport and we will have to keep playing. I have confidence that these guys and coaches can get it done."

Time for Plan B
SI.com's Don Banks
So much for Falcons Fever.

With Mike Vick's broken fibula Saturday night against Baltimore, this season's NFC playoff picture just got considerably less predictable. The big winner at first glance? That would be the New Orleans Saints, one of the Falcons' biggest rivals in the NFC South.

Last season, the Falcons beat the Saints twice, which proved to be the difference between Atlanta making the playoffs at 9-6-1 and New Orleans missing out at 9-7. With Tampa Bay still the favorite to defend their NFC South title, the Falcons and Saints figured to again battle it out for one of the conference's two wild-card spots.

They still might, but without Vick, the man whom the Falcons' entire franchise resurgence is built around, the advantage has to shift to New Orleans -- at least in the season's first half.

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    It was the first-ever matchup of Vick and Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, one of the top defensive players in the league, but Lewis never got a chance to tackle Vick before the injury.

    On third-and-6 from the Atlanta 5 late in the first quarter, Vick was chased out of the pocket and was tackled by Adalius Thomas. Vick fell awkwardly on his right leg and grabbed it even before he hit the ground.

    Thomas, after briefly celebrating the tackle, went back to check on Vick and several of Vick's teammates knelt beside him. When it was apparent he was hurt, a hush came over the crowd at the Georgia Dome.

    After he was examined by the Falcons' medical staff, Vick got up with some help and limped a few steps to a cart. The crowd gave him a standing ovation as he was driven to the locker room.

    "That hurts our league and the Falcons, and I feel for him," Lewis said. "He's my friend, and he'll be back. I'll call him and give him encouragement."

    Blank immediately went to Atlanta's locker room to see Vick, and he stayed until the diagnosis.

    "He started crying, I started crying," Blank said. "It's like one of your children. He's a 23-year-old who's imagining the worst. It's painful."

    Vick got off to a rough start against the Ravens, getting sacked on the first play and throwing an interception on the next one. He finished 0-for-4, and rushed for 8 yards.

    "I think that whole half was frustrating and what happened to Mike really topped it off," Atlanta receiver Peerless Price said. "We didn't do anything right and then we lose our man."

    Last season, Vick made the Pro Bowl in his first full season as a starter and set three NFL records for rushing by a quarterback.

    Doug Johnson, who becomes the starting quarter in Vick's absence, completed 6 of 11 passes for 76 yards, including a 42-yarder to MarTay Jenkins. Last year, when Vick missed a game against the New York Giants, Johnson filled in and led the Falcons to a 17-10 victory, starting an eight-game unbeaten streak.

    "Obviously, Mike is a critical part of this team, but the players have a tremendous amount of confidence in Doug Johnson, and Mike does, too," Blank said.

     
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