Commentary

Bears admire, prepare for Michael Vick

Eagles quarterback has gained the attention, respect of his next opponent

Updated: November 22, 2010, 8:14 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears scout team quarterback Caleb Hanie has a confession to make: He's no Michael Vick.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
AP Photo/Matt SlocumMichael Vick's recent accomplishments have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated by the Bears.

"I don't run a 4.3 or whatever he runs, a 4.2, so I'm just doing the best as I can to run as fast as I can, which is nowhere near as fast as him," he said. "Only a few guys on our team could emulate that."

Devin Hester, who runs the worst Wildcat offense I've ever seen, has enough on his plate.

Same with fellow speedsters Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning. Second-string QB Todd Collins is probably less mobile than Mike Tice.

So it's up to Hanie, somewhat of a dual-threat quarterback going back to his days at Colorado State. While he isn't a stiff, he's a Vick stand-in like I'm a junior Ernest Hemingway.

It was probably easier mimicking Jimmy Clausen.

But hey, everyone's got a job to do, and Hanie's is to get the Bears' defense ready for Vick this Sunday afternoon in a battle of first-place teams with playoff hopes.

"He's a special talent," Hanie said. "He's something else. He's a dangerous guy, and when he's throwing his ball as well as he is, and making great decisions like he is, it's tough to stop that. He's an optimum quarterback you could build, except for heightwise. Other than that, he's got everything."

Vick was the four-letter word at Halas Hall on Monday. His story has turned into a national storyline after his eye-popping, six-touchdown performance two weeks ago in a 59-28 prime-time win over the Washington Redskins.

Hester, the Bears' resident athletic marvel (he has "Any" stitched on the back of his left shoe and "Time" on his right), said he's not surprised Vick regained his classic form, or surpassed it, so quickly. He was so good two weeks ago, he killed Hester's interest.

"Man, I turned the game off after the first quarter against the Redskins," said Hester of the Eagles' 28-0 lead at the time. "He's a great athlete, and you get excited to watch him, but when you think you've got to play him, it's a different story."

Lovie We're not going to change up what we do. We believe in our defense, and it's set up to play guys like him.

-- Lovie Smith, on facing Michael Vick

The Eagles (7-3) are 5-1 in games Vick starts, and it's almost inconceivable to think he started the season as Kevin Kolb's backup. Vick has completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 1,608 yards and 11 touchdowns, rushed for 375 yards and five touchdowns, and most importantly, has zero interceptions in 191 attempts.

Needless to say, Vick has a locker room full of fans at Halas Hall. Talent respects talent, and watching a guy who has struggled with reaching his potential, not to mention the darker aspects of his off-field life, isn't lost on the Bears.

"I'm happy for him, up to this point," Manning said. "Even his teammate, the running back [LeSean] McCoy said, 'There's a lot of Mike Vick fans.' So I'm a Mike Vick fan. Until we play him. You know how it is."

Vick played a few snaps when the Eagles came to town last year, and while the novelty of his return from prison and dogfighting has passed, Vick's renaissance into an MVP candidate has not.

"He's a phenomenal athlete, electrifying," safety Chris Harris said. "I find myself in awe sometimes watching him play. He's playing great football right now, some of the best football of any quarterback in the league."

As expected, the Bears said to a man they won't change the fundamentals of their defense to challenge Vick. Yes, the Bears will be playing mostly Cover 2. No surprise there, but you can believe there will be some spies and some extra focus on discipline this week. A few Bears noticed how much time Vick has had to throw this season. Making him scramble when he's looking to throw is key, while respecting he can break out at any time.

"We can't let Mike Vick and the way he scrambles dictate how we play ball," Manning said. "We have to stay disciplined, because he can throw the ball deep. We just have to play fundamentally sound."

Bears coach Lovie Smith, who never strays from ranking opposing players from "good" to "great," refused to feed the beast Monday after practice.

"We've played Michael Vick before, he's a great player," Smith said. "We normally do what we do with our defense. We're not going to change up what we do. We believe in our defense and it's set up to play guys like him.

"We give him all the respect in the world, but our guys are excited to play against not just Mike Vick. They've got good skill players on offense all the way around."

[+] EnlargeBrian Urlacher
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireIf the Bears are going to be able to contain Vick, Brian Urlacher likely will need to have a big game.

Vick, who missed three weeks earlier in the season with a rib injury, got brutalized Sunday night by the Giants' fearsome pass rush, but he stayed in the game and led the Eagles to the 27-17 win. His style might be exciting, but it's also dangerous.

"Defending against him is a little different because he can run, but that can cause him problems too when you put your quarterback at risk of taking so many hits," Smith said.

Last year, Vick, then Donovan McNabb's backup, had a 34-yard run in a 24-20 win against the Bears. In his last start against Chicago, a 16-3 loss in 2005, he was 13-for-32 for 122 yards and two interceptions.

Different teams, different times.

While Vick's comeback tale will lead the news coverage, the real story is that this game could decide the Bears' season. Tied with Green Bay atop the NFC North with six to play, the Bears need all the breaks they can get. Getting Vick at home is the first.

"Our crowd will be into it," Smith said. "And we plan on giving them something to cheer about."

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.