It could well be the last of Vick as Eagles quarterback

RON CORTES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Michael Vick is tackled during Cowboys game after a concussion forced him to the locker room.
RON CORTES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Michael Vick is tackled during Cowboys game after a concussion forced him to the locker room.
Posted: November 13, 2012

ANDY REID met with his players on Monday afternoon, as is often the case on the day after a game, but Michael Vick stayed home with a headache. It is part of the team's concussion protocol. There once was a time when they would keep a player off the field during the recovery period but make him go to meetings and watch video, but no longer. The initial treatment now for concussion symptoms is quiet and rest.

For Vick, then, so went the first day of the end of days.

It would take a miracle for Vick to be cleared to play Sunday against the Washington Redskins - and, in case you haven't been paying attention this season, they are fresh out of miracles at One NovaCare Way. Reid called the concussion "pretty significant" at his Monday news conference and did everything but wave semaphore flags spelling out the reality that Vick will not play against Washington and that Nick Foles will.

It takes a minimum of 5 symptom-free days, accompanied by increasingly more-strenuous workout progressions, to get cleared after suffering symptoms such as headaches, according to the concussion protocol that Eagles athletic trainer Rick Burkholder outlined to me for a column I wrote in 2010. Every concussion is different, but back then, Burkholder said it usually takes "3 or 4 days" for the typical player to get through the first step without symptoms.

So while you count the days on your fingers, and quickly run out of fingers, well, what does it mean - other than that Vick almost certainly isn't playing Sunday?

This is where football intrudes, along with the desperate situation in which both this coach and this team find themselves. So:

* If Foles loses to Washington, the Eagles will be 3-7 and there will be no earthly reason to bring Vick back from a "pretty significant" concussion to play out the schedule.

* If Foles beats Washington, the Eagles will be 4-6 and there is no way in hell (unless Foles is abysmal) that they will go back to Vick and risk whatever wisp of momentum they might have created.

End of days, then.

End of days.

At one time, Reid and Vick shared the notion that the last picture would be of Vick carried off the field on his teammates' shoulders. Instead, we are left with the video of a slow walk toward the tunnel leading to the Eagles' locker room at Lincoln Financial Field.

The whole thing was a sentimental dream, rooted partly in Vick's personal determination, partly in Reid's complicated family situation, but mostly in this coach's belief that he was the one guy in the NFL who could not only knock the rust off Vick's game after his time in prison, but also reshape that game into a winning version that married the conventional to the dynamic. This coach is both a molder of quarterbacks and a confident man, you might have gathered over the years, and the Vick reclamation project was going to be his masterpiece.

That this is the mistake that will get Reid fired goes without saying at this point - that and the whole pesky Super Bowl thing. Vick had that great start after getting the job from a concussed Kevin Kolb in 2010, but by the end of the season, he was physically beaten down and everyone was acknowledging that he could not survive the battering if he did not change.

It was supposed to happen in 2011, except that the owners' lockout deprived Vick of the offseason work that everyone said he craved. When 2011 turned into a turnover-filled mess, Vick increasingly chafed - at least in public - at the conventional aspects of the makeover that Reid was attempting. He told everyone to stop worrying about the turnovers, and he kept committing them. He held the ball, and held the ball, and took another hellacious beating.

This year, 2012, with a full offseason of indoctrination, was supposed to be where Vick blossomed. That was the story, but it never happened. Turnovers were plentiful. Chafing at the constraints of the pocket became more public - culminating in an I-gotta-be-me speech at his locker 2 weeks ago.

Teams blitzed Vick to death and he could never get them to stop by making quicker, smarter decisions with the ball. This made a bad offensive line worse, as did the coach's refusal to run the ball. So there was all of that, and then came the gradual awareness that all of the beatings he had taken, along with the calendar, had slowed Vick down. He couldn't run the way he did in the past. He wasn't him anymore.

Now, this. If this is it for him with the Eagles, you can only guess at what the market for Vick might be in 2013. Will teams see a terrible offensive line and forgive Vick his failings? None of us knows.

In his time in Philadelphia, Vick has made enough money to repay his debts and done enough good work to rehabilitate his public image. In that way, it has been a success for him personally.

But if this is the way it ends here, with a long, slow walk into that tunnel, the experience will have fallen short of everyone's expectations, and maybe Michael Vick's most of all. He came here to rebirth something, after all, not to end it.

Email: hofmanr@phillynews.com

" @theidlerich

Columns: philly.com/

RichHofmann

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