Vick, Kelly downplay dustup between Cooper, Williams

CHARLES FOX / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Quarterback Michael Vick and coach Chip Kelly both insisted the team moved on quickly from the Cooper-Williams incident.
CHARLES FOX / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Quarterback Michael Vick and coach Chip Kelly both insisted the team moved on quickly from the Cooper-Williams incident.
Posted: September 08, 2013

IF THE EAGLES were mired in turmoil yesterday over the Thursday practice scrap between wide receiver Riley Cooper and cornerback Cary Williams, they were doing a good job of concealing it.

"What happened [Thursday] in that 10 minutes didn't affect us for the rest of practice . . . We got a brotherhood in here, so it extends far beyond football," quarterback Michael Vick said.

Coach Chip Kelly endorsed Vick's view, that the team put the fight behind it immediately.

"We went right back to a team period, right after that. Both of those guys went right back and played. Matter of fact, Mike [Vick] threw the ball deep to Riley on the first play of team period, and Cary was covering him. No followup, whatsoever," Kelly said yesterday, when asked whether he had addressed the matter.

On Thursday, Vick indicated his displeasure with Williams, who yapped at Vick when the quarterback tried to keep Williams from going at Cooper a second time. Vick said then that the team should focus on preparing for Monday night's opener at Washington, not on fighting one another.

"It's just something that happened. We cleared it up and we ain't gonna think no more about it," Vick said yesterday.

Asked what happened in his run-in with Williams, Vick said: "Nothing. I'd rather not even talk about it. I'm trying to just leave that, put that behind us. We've gotta focus on winning this game. Cary's OK. He understands. He knows he has to control his temper sometimes, and we all do. We all are men, at the end of the day, and sometimes tempers do flare, but that's normal."

Williams again did not speak with reporters, which again seemed odd. To recap: He got in a fight with the one guy in the NFL whose scrap with an African-American teammate was sure to make headlines, thanks to Cooper's much-discussed use of the N-word at a Kenny Chesney concert. Williams could have helped the Eagles minimize the situation by doing what Cooper did, asserting right away that the fight erupted from the heat of competition. Williams could have made it clear that his reported use of the N-word when yelling at Cooper had nothing to do with the earlier controversy. Instead, Williams left the matter to his teammates and coaches to try to deal with.

"I know at the end of the day, Cary understands that we need him on the football field, not to be hotheaded at times," Vick said, when asked what sort of confidence he has that Williams' history of onfield confrontations won't be a problem for the Eagles. "We know he's a guy who's very into his work and what we do. He can't be high-strung all the time. He's gotta stay even-keel like everybody else, just out of respect for the game."

Williams was benched during a practice against the Patriots last month after tangling with wideout Aaron Dobson, but Kelly said yesterday that was only because he and New England coach Bill Belichick agreed going into the joint practices that combatants would be removed. Belichick also sat Dobson that day.

Williams' history includes a fine for a dustup with DeSean Jackson last season and an incident when he shoved a linesman in the Super Bowl as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. Kelly acknowledged he has spoken with the cornerback about "playing with emotion, not letting emotion play with you."

"Hopefully, he understands the ramifications and what it is; it's a team game," Kelly said.

Kelly said he did not hear what Williams said to Cooper. The Inquirer reported that an anonymous Eagle said Williams kept telling Cooper, "I'm not a [N-word] you mess with."

"We've got music blaring . . . I didn't hear anything," Kelly said. He said he did not think he needed to talk to Williams about what he was reported to have said.

Kelly said the Eagles took into account Williams' history when they signed him to a 3-year, $18 million deal. Why did they bring him aboard?

"Length," Kelly said. "I thought we wanted to get bigger and taller at corner. His competitive edge. When you look at him, he's such a competitive person. He's always around the ball. I think he can make a lot of plays on the football. He gives you the ability to play some man coverage and blitz people, because of his ability to play press."

Sixteen-game plan

Michael Vick's health obviously is one of the major question marks the Eagles face as they prepare to kick off the Chip Kelly era Monday night in Washington. Vick has started only 23 of a possible 32 games the past two seasons. He has played a full 16-game schedule only once in his 10 NFL seasons, in 2006 with Atlanta.

"I plan on playing 16 games. It's something that I have my mind made up to do," Vick said. "Things happen, but hopefully, this year will be my year that I can be out there with my teammates for all 16 games."

Vick said his hope is that in Kelly's offense, he will have a better sense of where the hits are coming from, and be able to protect himself more effectively than when he is moving around a conventional pocket.

Birdseed

Corner Brandon Hughes (hand) and offensive tackle Dennis Kelly (back) definitely will not play Monday night, Chip Kelly said. He said Hughes is scheduled to practice Tuesday. Dennis Kelly said he thinks he's only a few weeks away . . . It's unusual to see a wide receiver with a large, framed photo of himself trying to tackle an opposing defender after an interception - not your classic highlight moment - but Damaris Johnson has such a photo, of himself grabbing at the feet of then-Raven Ed Reed last season. Reed, now with the Texans, preceded Johnson at Destrehan High in Destrehan, La., and is revered by Johnson. "People say, 'Why would you want a picture of an interception?' But I don't look at it like that," Johnson said. He and his photo reside in the Johnson wing of the Eagles' locker room, next to the lockers of offensive tackle Lane Johnson and practice-squad safety Keelan Johnson.


On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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