Barkley a backup - but he'll keep working hard

Posted: August 29, 2013

THE LONG PAUSE said enough, but then Matt Barkley confirmed what everyone was thinking.

"I can't think of a time," Barkley responded, when asked about the last time he went into a football season and was not a starting quarterback.

It certainly was not in four recordsetting seasons at the University of Southern California - and not before that, during his 4 years at California high school powerhouse Mater Dei.

Maybe it was at some point during Pop Warner football.

But Barkley has come to terms with the knowledge that he won't strike like a bolt of lightning with the Eagles.

After tomorrow night's finale at the New York Jets, it could be a long time before Barkley plays in another NFL game this season, if at all.

But Barkley said he will not let his status as the third-string quarterback behind Michael Vick and Nick Foles stop him from making the most of his rookie campaign.

"It's new territory, but it's an opportunity to go out and learn," Barkley said. "I just want to learn as much as I can.

"I can't let the season slip away because I'm not playing. That's what I don't want. I want to make sure I grow and progress to where I come back next offseason and feel like I'm steps ahead of where I am.

"You have to take every day like it is your job to lose, even though it is not."

It will be a different kind of year for Barkley.

Unless there is a major unexpected shakeup in the quarterback hierarchy, Vick and Foles will get virtually all of the reps during practice.

Barkley will have to move his learning curve by running the scout team, studying game film, learning through projection instead of action.

"I think you just come out every day looking to improve at something," he said. "I don't know what that will be day to day or week to week.

"It could be just better knowledge of the offense. One week, we might have new installations, so it will be mastering those."

Whether it was warranted or not, Barkley entered training camp believing he was in a three-way battle with Vick and Foles for the starting job.

He quickly found out it was a two-man race, and when Eagles coach Chip Kelly named Vick the starter just before Saturday's preseason game at Jacksonville, Barkley knew what was ahead.

"Since the announcement came out about [Vick], you kind of realize that's what it is. You take it in stride and you deal with it," he said.

"It's not like a groundbreaking event [that a rookie quarterback does not start]. It's not drastic. Obviously, you want to see the field and want to play, but this is just another opportunity to learn."

This might be the first time in a decade that having the name "Matt Barkley" may have worked as a negative for Barkley.

Because of his name recognition, the anticipation concerning Barkley was probably higher than his draft status (fourth round, 98th overall) warranted.

Down the road, if he progresses, Barkley may indeed become the steal of the 2013 draft that some have predicted.

But coming into this training camp, he was competing with Vick, a former No. 1 overall draft pick, and Foles, a third-round pick (88th overall) who set team rookie records for attempts (265), completions (161) and passing yards (1,699) last season.

The long history of the NFL has few rookie fourth-round draft picks starting on Opening Day at quarterback.

Still, with Vick's injury history, there is a realistic possibility that at some point this season, Barkley will find himself one snap away from being put into a game.

"We've talked about it," Kelly said of his plan for Barkley and Foles. "If we keep going and [Vick] stays healthy, you've got a couple of guys that you've got to really make sure that they are on top of their game.

"It's hard, because they don't get those reps, and it's not like you can throw them in a scrimmage situation, because you're always scrimmaging during the week.

"You're always planning for your next opponent. There's a plan in place, from how much we are throwing, what days we are throwing on, with those guys to continue to develop them.

"But the alternative isn't a tasty alternative. It's, hey, let's get them a lot of game reps. If they are getting a lot of game reps, that means your starting quarterback is out."

Being available at any notice and a future that may lead to his getting a shot at starting again are what Barkley has to keep in focus as he navigates a season that will likely be a new experience in frustration.

"I always like to compete," Barkley said. "In my mind, there is always a competition going on. That's my mindset, whether there is a label of a quarterback competition or not.

"I think it's almost an obligation as a quarterback in the NFL that you have to compete for your job every day."

Click here for complete coverage of Philadelphia Eagles training camp.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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