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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Michael Vick has his swagger back.
When last season ended, Vick was beat up physically and worn down mentally. He was uncertain of his future with the Philadelphia Eagles and his confidence was shaky.
Then Chip Kelly showed up, Vick stuck around, and the rejuvenated quarterback has never looked better than he has in the first two preseason games.
“I’m having fun playing football and I fell in love with the game again and I am thankful for that,” Vick said after going 9 for 10 for 105 yards in a 14-9 win over Carolina on Thursday night.
“You’ve got to play this game with intense passion and purpose and I thank Coach Kelly for what he has done for me and that’s just giving me that confidence that I felt like I was losing at some point in my career. You just have to keep working hard and when you do that, you get the results that you want. But I can’t be satisfied with this performance. It’s a long season and we have a lot of work to do and I understand that and I can’t lose sight of that.”
Vick restructured his contract, took a pay cut and had no assurances he’d even make the roster when he returned to the Eagles. He’s been competing with Nick Foles for the starting job since Kelly’s arrival and still isn’t guaranteed anything at this point.
But Vick has outplayed Foles, who also looks sharp running Kelly’s up-tempo offense. Through two games, Vick is 13 of 15 for 199 yards, one TD, one desperation-pass interception and a passer rating of 113.1. Foles is 11 of 14 for 96 yards, no TDs, one pick and a passer rating of 65.7 in two games.
“I think we have two quarterbacks that can play in an NFL game, so we’ll continue to look at it,” Kelly said. “But you feel better about that situation. Sometimes I think you get nervous because you don’t have anybody, and it’s a default decision, but again, I thought both those guys played well.”
Vick had a breakout year under coach Andy Reid in 2010, leading the Eagles to the NFC East title, winning The Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year award and starting in the Pro Bowl. But he’s battled injuries and inconsistency the last two years.
Vick sustained a concussion in Week 10 last year and Reid decided to let Foles play the rest of the way because the Eagles were in last place on their way to a 4-12 finish.
Vick returned to start the season finale against the New York Giants because Foles was hurt. He finished the year with 2,362 yards passing, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and also lost five fumbles.
After the final game, Vick criticized the way some of his teammates prepared throughout the year and questioned their commitment level. He wasn’t sure where he would end up or whether he could still perform like a four-time Pro Bowl player.
“When things don’t go well and when everybody is pointing the finger at you, it can hurt your confidence,” Vick said. “You could be one of the best players in the league and sometimes outside sources can maybe waver your feelings or emotions. I read everything that was said, I lived it, but when I first sat down with Coach Kelly, his main concern and goal was to help me get back in tiptop shape, and get me to the point where I’m comfortable and can believe in myself again.
“I thank him for that, so that is where the work ethic comes from now. I come in early, I train hard and I do everything they ask me to do and I encourage my teammates to do the same thing because I see how it is helping me develop as a quarterback even in the later stages of my career.”
The 33-year-old Vick is quite comfortable in Kelly’s hurry-up offense, though the Eagles aren’t showing much in preseason games. He’s making smart decision, protecting the ball, throwing crisp passes and is still a big threat when he runs the ball.
“I think it fits what I like to do,” Vick said of Kelly’s system. “I’ve seen some version of it before. I’ve visualized doing it over and over again before the game. I play the game in my mind all week and just drive myself crazy with that so I think that’s why I am able to stay in the rhythm, stay in the tempo, stay in the flow of the game, during the game. It’s preparation and that’s probably about 75 percent of the game.”
Vick is the oldest player on a rebuilding team that hopes to turn things around quickly. Despite his past troubles, he’s been a model citizen since joining the Eagles in 2009 and is a leader in the locker room.
Foles, rookie Matt Barkley and other quarterbacks Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne have an excellent rapport with Vick.
“Mike is a competitor, he’s a great quarterback,” Foles said. “It has made me a better quarterback going against him, so I am learning a lot from him.”
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