Sources: Vick to play in first quarter
PHILADELPHIA -- The mystery is solved: Expect to see Michael Vick on the field in the first quarter of Thursday night's preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, according to sources with knowledge of the Eagles' game plan.
Coach Andy Reid does not want Vick -- or Eagles fans -- to wait very long for him to see his first action. Initially, Vick will be used as a quarterback, then in some Wildcat formations.
"Andy wants him to play quarterback -- run around on the field and see how he responds to the speed of the game," said one source who has talked to Vick about Thursday's plans.
Reid is concerned that Vick -- after a layoff of more than two years -- can quickly adjust to the speed and intensity usually reserved for the third preseason game, which is customarily treated like the regular season by most NFL teams. Indeed, Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio has told his defensive starters to expect to play well into the third quarter.
"Another thing they want to see is Michael's ball security tonight," a source close to Vick said. "They want to see how Michael handles the traffic of the game."
Eagles coaches have warned Vick that the Jaguars will attack the football to test his ability to protect against fumbling, usually a problem with players who have not seen game action for quite a while.
Reid said on Tuesday that if Vick looks like he's struggling with the pace of the game, he will not hesitate to end Thursday's experiment with Vick, who will also be used in several Wildcat formations and plays -- some of them with quarterback Donovan McNabb playing wide receiver.
On Wednesday night, Vick talked to his league-assigned mentor, Tony Dungy, by telephone for about a half hour. According to Dungy, the former coach wanted Vick to be focused on playing the game, to not get caught up in the distractions, "don't overreact to how some people may react to you."
Contrary to some reports, Dungy is still Vick's mentor, and will remain so until NFL commissioner Roger Goodell makes a decision on when Vick will play in the regular season, according to league spokesman Greg Aiello. Dungy's role as Vick's mentor could continue well into the 2009 season, Aiello said.
"That relationship is continuing," Aiello said.
During early warm-ups at Lincoln Financial Field, well before fans were allowed into the stadium, Vick threw passes to a variety of teammates. His demeanor was far more serious than McNabb, who was joking around and even displaying to Vick the proper way to get two feet inbounds when catching a pass.
Dressed in his game pants and a black warm-up top, Vick exchanged a few fist bumps with teammates.
By then, a few dozen fans were in the stands, including a handful wearing No. 7 Vick jerseys or shirts. His head down as he headed into the tunnel, Vick did not acknowledge the fans.
Running back Brian Westbrook will not play for the Eagles, who said they're just playing it safe with Westbrook. Earlier this week, Reid had said he expected Westbrook to play. Westbrook underwent surgery to remove two bone spurs from his right ankle in June.
Sal Paolantonio covers the NFL for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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