When star receiver DeSean Jackson saw Michael Vick go down early in the Philadelphia Eagles’ 27-17 victory over the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football, he thought, “No, not again.” For the Eagles star quarterback, it was the second injury in as many preseason games as he exited the opener with a left thumb injury.
“Last year we dealt with a lot of him getting injured and things like that,” Jackson said in a sideline interview with ESPN’s Lisa Salters. “He’s such a huge part of our offense. Going back in there at halftime and checking him out, things were pretty cool. He was sore and bruised up a little bit. He was just like, ‘Man, I can’t keep taking hits like that.’ Hopefully we can protect him better.”
Injuries are nothing new for the 6’0, 215-pound Vick, who has only played a full 16-game season only once (2006) in his nine-year NFL career. The Eagles’ Pro-Bowl QB has repeatedly said this offseason that he needs to do whatever’s necessary to stay healthy and avoid damaging contact, but he just can’t stir clear of putting himself in harms way. The bruising shot to the ribs that he absorbed from New England’s defensive end Jermaine Cunningham in the first quarter on Monday night was yet another case of Vick trying to make something out of nothing, on a play that would have been better off aborted. For the second consecutive game, Vick lasted just six plays (he went 1-for-3 for 5 yards, with one run for a pick up of 5) and then went for X-rays. The tests for his ribs were negative, just as they were on his left thumb 11 days earlier in a 24-23 Eagles win over the Pittsburg Steelers on August 9.
Vick enters the kickoff of the 2012 season under more pressure than any other player in the league. Disparaged last season for labeling themselves the “Dream Team,” the Eagles’ season rests squarely on their QB’s shoulders. Without Vick on the field, Eagles head coach Andy Reid’s team can’t survive the tough schedule of the NFC East if he gets injured again (he missed three games last year with broken ribs). All of the talent Philly’s management has assembled around their star QB will go to waste if he cannot cash it in with a healthy, productive season.
Part of the blame has to rest with Reid. Why isn’t he taking more care to protect his QB? After last week, this would have been a perfect game to sit the injury-prone quarterback. Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick sat superstar quarterback Tom Brady and most of his star players Monday night. Sidelining Vick would have given him the rest he probably needed to heel from the thumb injury and avoided another trip to the X-ray room. At this rate, it’s hard to quantify Vick’s value to the Eagles. It’s only the preseason but this is not a good sign, especially since Vick’s incredible talent is only matched by his unfortunate fragility.
If Reid and his offensive line won’t protect him, than Vick must look out for himself. What he has to understand is the level of responsibility that is thrust upon him, and the proper way to manage it. The Eagles need him on the field more than they need him to turn one busted play into a spectacular 60-yard gain. The great quarterbacks know when to ditch the ball or take a sack. If Vick wants to remain an Eagle –and ultimately be remembered as one of the game’s great QB’s– he’s going to have to relay on his IQ, not his just his superior abilities, to get out of tough situations and minimize his risk. Once he masters that, the Eagles should soar sky high.