Vick is leading force for Eagles

Michael Vick takes a break during training camp yesterday.
Michael Vick takes a break during training camp yesterday. (STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: August 16, 2011

BETHLEHEM - Reporters came to Eagles quarterback Michael Vick for updates and perspective, while DeSean Jackson was holding out; in fact, it was Vick who broke the news that Jackson might not report on time, the day after the lockout ended. Vick stopped short of drawing lines in the sand, but he clearly wanted his electric wideout in camp, trying to get those contract woes ironed out while practicing, instead of sitting at home in California.

"I think DeSean is going to handle the situation like a man," the Eagles' quarterback said early in training camp.

When Jackson finally came in, just before he would have lost the right to become a free agent following the season, he said the decision to end his 11-day holdout was "really just about me wanting to step up and be a man about everything."

Jackson didn't reference Vick directly, but he echoed everything Vick had been saying about coming in with the right attitude, not being a distraction, letting the business side of football take care of itself. Like the rest of the team, Jackson follows Vick's lead.

The Jackson flap was the highest-profile problem Vick has addressed in his first training camp as the acknowledged leader of the Eagles. His approach was understated, but direct and effective. That's how coaches and teammates see their 31-year-old franchise QB, who in a year has gone from afterthought backup to a draw for free agents who hope to win a Super Bowl.

"He's got some fire under him when we're not doing things right," wideout Jason Avant said yesterday. "I think he's developed into a great leader. Leadership is always, the first thing, play. After that, the vocal [part] will come."

That was pretty much exactly what Eagles coach Andy Reid said yesterday.

"What you're seeing this year, in this camp, is different from what you saw last year," Reid said. "Last year he did it mainly by example," leading players who had been told Kevin Kolb was going to be their QB, until Reid abruptly changed course following the second game of the season. "He was a good, solid person, performer, that whole deal. This year, he's hard on himself, but he's also hard on people around him."

Vick's 2010 Pro Bowl season of redemption established his right to lead, vocally as well as with his arm and his legs, and now, he is exercising it.

"I think there's great respect for Mike, because he was at the top at one point, and then he was at the bottom several years later, and then he got himself back up to the top," Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said yesterday. "Playing the quarterback position, you're thrust into a leadership role just by the position. He's sort of taken the bull by the horns. Much of leadership comes naturally, and your experiences in your past and all those type of things. Everybody is just a little bit different on how they lead. There are some things that just have to be done, leadership-wise, at the quarterback position. He's really done a fine job with that. I'm really impressed with the way that Mike Vick goes about his business. He's a real pro football player. He goes about it a certain way."

Mornhinweg said he has seen great quarterbacks attract free agents before, in Green Bay with Brett Favre and in San Francisco, with Steve Young.

"Heck, I would too - I would want to play with Michael," said Mornhinweg, who last suited up for the Denver Dynamite of the Arena Football League, in 1987.

Earlier in camp, Mornhinweg said of Vick: "He's got the mentality right now where he doesn't care how we get it done. Run, pass, who scores, who gets credit. He's only concerned about winning the next ballgame and what it takes to win the next ballgame."

Of course, it didn't hurt Vick's clout in the locker room when Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie made it clear, during his annual state of the team address, that management intends to sign Vick beyond his franchise-tagged 2011 season. Lurie said he was "looking forward to having Michael for many, many years."

Before Jackson arrived, Vick clearly was at a disadvantage in drills, trying to throw against what ought to be the NFL's deepest group of corners, with a receiving corps that lacked Jackson or Jeremy Maclin, sidelined by illness. But Vick never seemed to grow frustrated, and maybe more important, he found ways to complete passes to Avant, Riley Cooper, Chad Hall and others. If Vick has had a really bad day in this camp, no one picked up on it.

Vick played a role in the Eagles' undertaking of another quarterbacking project, Vince Young. Vick talked up the idea of adding Young, even before he was officially released by the Titans, then spoke of his excitement when Young came aboard as his backup.

"I look forward to working with him and making him a better player," said Vick. "It's going to be a positive effect. I think Vince will mature as a player . . . I think he'll get better as far as understanding what this offense is about and I think it will help him long-term. That's our goal, to get him in here and make him a better player."

Avant said it shouldn't surprise anyone that top players want to play with Vick, who served 19 months in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting ring.

"He's a great guy," Avant said. "He's a great talent. He has what it takes to win. He's hungry to win."

Tight end Brent Celek acknowledged he didn't know what to think, 2 years ago this week, when the Eagles unexpectedly gave Vick a new NFL home, with Donovan McNabb entrenched as their starter and Kolb in place as the heir apparent. But Celek said he has no questions now.

"He just takes control of the huddle, of the team," Celek said. "From Day 1, he's been the ultimate teammate, a great dude off the field."

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