Eagles' Vick takes exception to criticism of playing style

Posted: June 02, 2012

For all of the offseason speculation about the Eagles' potential, this much has been clear for some time: The team doesn't have a chance unless Michael Vick stays healthy and protects the football.

The quarterback's health has been debated and discussed since the middle of last season and will remain a hot topic for months to come as Vick prepares for a new campaign. As the questions keep coming - and with no definitive answers until real games begin in September - Vick on Friday sounded frustrated by the constant scrutiny on the subject and, in particular, by criticism that he takes too many hits because he holds the ball too long before throwing.

"I really don't think I need to discuss what type of game I'm going to play. It's going to be what it's going to be. It seems like the questions are becoming repetitive, and I'm tired of answering it because the only thing we can do is wait and see if I'm going to play a more disciplined game," Vick said after practice. "There's not too much more to say or to talk about."

Of course, with the draw of the NFL and the Eagles, and a void of serious team news until training camp begins, media and fan talk will continue to fill the time. Vick, the most important player on the team, remains topic No. 1. Questions about his health arose Friday after he was asked about playing more carefully in a radio interview.

"The goal is to protect myself," Vick said at practice. "I put my faith in God to keep me on the field with my team and with the guys, and that's about it."

Vick has long taken criticism for taking extra hits other quarterbacks might avoid. Injuries forced him to miss three games in 2011 and leave another two early. Vick often invites added punishment when he runs, refusing to slide even when there is little to gain, and he has also been chided for holding the ball too long, bringing on extra hits in the pocket. Vick took exception to that critique.

"There's no reason to keep digging and to [be] talking about it and saying, 'Change your style. Are you holding the ball too long?' I'm over that. That's not the reason, and I think sometimes people make assumptions not really knowing what needs to be done," Vick said.

A reporter asked Vick if he was irritated by having to discuss the topic again.

"Yeah, because at some point I start to feel like it's personal, like shots are being directed towards me for holding the ball too long . . . when that's not the case," he said.

Vick veered between defiance of critics and acknowledging the need to stay healthy, as is often the case when he talks about his own safety. His changing tone, sometimes within the same interview, contributes to the persistent questions about how he will play.

In the end, the only real way to see if the quarterback alters his playing style is to wait for regular-season games, when he has to balance adrenaline with prudence.

Vick has played a full regular season only once in his career. His biggest 2011 injuries - broken ribs and a concussion - both came from hits while he was in the pocket. Some analysts have suggested he could avoid those blows if he unloaded the ball sooner.

Vick acknowledged that scrutiny comes with playing quarterback and that his health is crucial for the team's success.

"I accept responsibility for everything. I feel that my sole responsibility is this team; we're going to go as I go. If I'm not on the field, I'm not helping the team in any shape, form, or fashion. The turnovers, that's my responsibility," he said. "I understand the responsibility and the role that comes along with being a quarterback, and I accept it. Sometimes I just don't accept people saying things and really not knowing what they're talking about."

As the session with reporters neared its end, though, Vick's mood eased.

"Just trying to say what's right and what needs to be done so everybody can get a clear understanding of what needs to be done, even though you guys may still not see it that way," he said, drawing laughter. "It's all good with me. I've got thick skin, baby."

Vick is used to taking criticism; there's no doubt about that. What remains a question is how well he will absorb another season of physical punishment. It won't be answered for months, but that won't stop the talk.

Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214 or jtamari@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @JonathanTamari.


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