NFL

Vick gets extra work at Eagles' practice

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The Canadian Press
8/16/2009 10:44:11 PM
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PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb took a knee on the grass and was joined to his right by Michael Vick.

Vick removed his helmet on a humid Sunday afternoon, smiling and laughing as McNabb cracked jokes to the delight of his Philadelphia Eagles teammates. At one point, McNabb threw himself on the ground in what was likely part of the punchline to a story that had Vick -- sombre and contrite two days earlier -- grinning in the baking sun.

If animal activists want Vick treated as a social pariah, they won't get any assistance inside the Eagles locker-room. Vick is simply one of the boys with the birds -- practising plays, sprinting in the heat, and absorbing the hits of some good-natured ribbing.

After completing some short passes, cornerback Asante Samuel yelled out, "that's not the same quarterback from the commercial!" Vick's time as a former pitchman for a sports drink included a commercial where he tossed footballs from the field over the stadium. He attempted no passes that deep -- or had the help of digital wizardry -- in his second practice since signing Thursday for US$1.6 million with a team option for a second year at $5.2 million.

Vick earned some admirers when he connected with wide receiver Brandon Gibson for 25 yards on a tough sideline route.

"There you go! There you go! Yes!" wide receivers coach David Culley said, patting Vick on the shoulders.

Vick went 1-for-2 on a goal-line drill as practice closed. One pass into the corner was broken up by cornerback Dimitri Patterson. Vick's next pass attempt was tipped by Patterson, before it was caught for a touchdown.

"He flicks the ball a little like a big kid playing amongst little kids," wide receiver Jason Avant said.

Vick, who did not speak to reporters, did have some extra work. Vick, wearing a white long-sleeve shirt under his red No. 7 jersey, spent 20 more minutes on the field after the 110-minute practice ended, throwing passes to Eagles offensive quality coach Doug Pederson. One incompletion was quickly followed by Vick hitting the ground for a series of push-ups.

Eagles coach Andy Reid said Vick needed to shed about two pounds, and the disgraced QB needs to play catch-up and learn the intricate playbook -- two reasons for staying late while the rest of the team hit the showers.

A three-time Pro Bowl pick during six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, Vick served 18 months in federal prison for running a dogfighting ring. He was reinstated last month by the NFL after being out of action since 2006.

Vick struck instant friendships with his forgiving teammates. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson was attached at the hip every time they weren't involved in a play.

"It's a lot more than just football," Jackson said. "We can just get out there and chill a bit. I can talk to him and get to know him a little bit."

The Eagles returned to some sense of normalcy Sunday. No protesters waved signs or brought their dogs outside the team practice complex. The media contingent was reduced to mostly the regular beat writers, not the 100-plus members who stuffed the auditorium for Vick's news conference on Friday. That number should swell on Monday when McNabb addresses the media for the first time since officially having Vick as a practice teammate.

McNabb again threw his support behind Vick on his blog Sunday night. McNabb said he explained his position to Reid in mid-July why Vick and the Eagles would be a strong match. They discussed Vick again one more time in training camp.

"I know what Michael was accused and convicted of, and I don't like it at all," McNabb wrote. "I have had dogs all my life and consider myself a dog-lover. I am in no way excusing Michael for what happened but he was punished for his crime. He served his time and, at least I believe, has learned from it. I believe Michael is a changed person and that he deserves a chance at putting his life back together."

The Eagles believe they help rehabilitate Vick's image, and that he can help them win that elusive first Super Bowl.

Reid has been adamant that Vick was signed to play quarterback, even though his speed and dazzling playmaking make him a better fit as a gimmick player than a pocket passer. Offensive co-ordinator Marty Mornhinweg expected Vick to be worked into the Wildcat offence. The offence is usually a deceptive, single-wing formation that snaps the ball directly to the running back and can turn quarterbacks into wide receivers.

And it makes an all-purpose player like Vick become the most unpredictable player on the field.

"Just being on that other sideline, from a defensive standpoint, dangerous, scared are all words that describe the feelings running through defensive coaches," Eagles defensive co-ordinator Sean McDermott said.

And what about special teams? Co-ordinator Ted Daisher said Vick has the athletic ability to play on special teams, but deferred questions about Vick's specific role to Reid.

The Eagles have time to figure it all out. Once the season begins, Vick can participate in all team activities except games. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he would consider Vick for full reinstatement by Week 6 (Oct. 18-19) at the latest.

"We just can't wait to have him all the time," Avant said.



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