Vick on a football high

Posted: August 08, 2014

CORTLAND, N.Y. - Watching Michael Vick throw a football never gets old.

That oh-so-effortless arm motion followed by a dart-thrower's flick of the wrist followed by the piece de resistance: a perfect spiral that comes out of his hand like a bullet exiting the chamber of a gun.

As evidenced by his .562 career completion percentage, the ball may not always go where Vick intends it to go, but it's still fun watching him throw it. And in case you were wondering, it's still fun for him as well.

"I'm enjoying football more than I ever have in my life," Vick said Tuesday after a morning practice at the Jets' Cortland State training camp. "It's even better now than it was when I was younger because you appreciate it more, because you don't know how much longer you're going to be playing. So you try to enjoy it every day."

Vick, who turned 34 in June, spent most of last season standing on the sideline and watching Nick Foles put up ridiculous passing numbers in Chip Kelly's quarterback-friendly offense and lead the Eagles to the playoffs.

And unless Geno Smith crashes and burns - which certainly is a possibility for a guy who threw 21 interceptions last season and had the lowest passer rating (66.5) in the NFL - Vick likely will spend this season doing the same thing with the Jets.

Yet, he insists he is very much at peace with his situation. He said he is approaching this season much the same way he did 2010 with the Eagles when he was supposed to be Kevin Kolb's backup.

Kolb, you may recall, ended up suffering a concussion in the first game. Vick replaced him and had the best season of his career.

"My approach is pretty much the same as it was then," Vick said. "Stay ready to play. Stay ready to play. I was rooting for Kevin back then, trying to help him, trying to be there for him.

"It's the same situation here, but with Geno. I want him to be successful. I want him to succeed. I want him to be the best that he can be. And we're working hard to do that. As for myself, my approach is don't take any days off and approach every game and practice like it's your last. That's my philosophy."

Smith will start the Jets' first preseason game tonight against the Colts and play into the second quarter. Vick is expected to play one series. There's nothing he really needs to show offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

"Marty's a little more stern now than he was [with the Eagles]," Vick said with a smile. "But it's great playing for a coach who's going to coach the hell out of you and not give you any slack, even at my age."

The Eagles threw Vick a lifeline 5 years ago after he was released from prison, where he served 19 months for running a dogfighting and gambling ring. They gave him a chance to pick up the pieces of his life and his football career.

And while the football part didn't turn out quite like he might have hoped, he wouldn't trade the last 5 years for anything.

"They were probably the best 5 years of my life," he said. "From the time I came out of prison, just having the opportunity to go to Philadelphia - my wife is from there, her family is there, my kids were able to go to some great schools there.

"I was able to play and learn from some great coaches and play with some great players. I made friends and relationships with some people that will last a lifetime.

"That's what this game is all about. I might not have achieved everything I would've liked to achieve on the field. There were a lot of throws I wish I could have back, a lot of games I wish we could've won. But I grew as an individual, as a man, as a person. I learned how to be the citizen and ambassador I wanted to be coming out of prison."

Injuries and turnovers plagued Vick during his five seasons with the Eagles. He led the Eagles to the playoffs in 2010 after replacing Kolb, putting up career-best passing numbers in every significant category. But he wouldn't come anywhere close to that performance level again.

His last three seasons with the Eagles, he had a 12-17 record as a starter and turned the ball over 38 times in those 29 starts.

Last summer, he had an outstanding preseason and beat out Foles for the starting job. But an early October hamstring injury sidelined him and opened the door for Foles, who threw 27 touchdown passes and just two interceptions in 10 starts and finished with the third-best passer rating (119.2) in league history.

"The games I did play in last year, I had such a great time," Vick said. "Playing in Chip Kelly's offense, it's so open. If I'd been 25 years old, it would have been ideal."

Even though he spent much of the season on the bench, Vick was an influential leader on last year's 10-6 Eagles team. He was instrumental in putting out the fire caused by Riley Cooper's racial slur. He kept DeSean Jackson in line. He advised the team's younger players. And he always was supportive of Foles.

"I was a big brother in the locker room to a lot of those guys," he said. "Keeping things in order just by walking around. Just by your presence. It says a lot about the guys in there - the respect they had for one another."

Vick and Foles were the ultimate odd couple. A black guy from a rough town who spent 19 months behind bars and a religious white guy from Texas who came from money and probably has never even jaywalked.

But even as they battled for the starting quarterback job last summer, they bonded and became friends. And when Foles replaced him as the starter, Vick fully supported him.

"I knew when Andy Reid drafted him that he was going to be the future of that team," Vick said. "I knew he had it in him from the first time I saw him throw the football.

"Nick was sort of like a little brother. There were days when I was down and Nick would be there, always giving me words of encouragement. He was always smiling.

"He's one of the best teammates I've ever had. Attitude-wise. [Being] a great person. He wanted a lot out of life and expected a lot out of himself. That means a lot to me seeing that type of attitude."

Now, Vick is in a new place with a new team, helping mentor another young quarterback. Maybe he'll spend the entire season backing up Smith, or maybe Smith will falter or get hurt and Vick will get another opportunity to play. Vick is OK with either scenario.

One thing is clear: No matter how this season turns out for him, he's not ready to call it quits. Last week, he told a reporter he wanted to play until he was 40. On Tuesday, he amended that to 38 or 39.

"Hopefully, if I'm still blessed to be able to move and throw the football, if I'm still relevant, then absolutely [I want to keep playing]," he said. "Maybe not [until I'm] 40. Maybe 38 or 39.

"But I think I'm still in good shape. Marty's always telling me that he thinks I'll be able to play until I'm 40. So, why not? I know my arm is still alive. And it's getting better, too. Getting better."

On Twitter: @Pdomo


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