PHILADELPHIA - Even on his worst day Michael Vick can stretch defenses with his arm and legs.
That's what Andy Reid saw in the last Eagles preseason game.
Vick rushed for 35 yards and a touchdown on seven carries against the New York Jets last week. He also completed 7 of 11 passes for 26 net yards, the latter because of four sacks.
Though the performance looked sloppy from the press box, Reid was shaking his head in amazement for it was only Vick's second game action in more than two years. The scoring run was particularly appealing as Vick has rushed for 21 touchdowns in his career and eventually could become a staple in the Eagles' red zone and two-point conversion packages.
"I know there were a lot of negative things written and said but I saw some great positives in there," Reid said. "For a guy that's been out of it that long to be able to turn on the juice like he did in the first half of that game and control the offense the way he did, that was a positive. Now, did he get tired in the second half? Yeah. But I understand what he went through there. And that's after looking at all the tape. Are there things he can work on? Absolutely. But there also were some good things there."
Vick has two weeks to study the Jets tape while he serves a two-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. Vick recently spent 20 months in jail after being convicted of operating a dogfighting ring.
Barring an injury the Eagles likely will go with just two quarterbacks until Vick is eligible to play. At that point Vick most likely will be used situationally for about 10 plays per game.
"I still think I'm a couple of weeks away," Vick said. "I'm going to use this time to get myself in shape, build my endurance, continue to strengthen my legs, and continue to work my mind with the offense and just the mental part of the game. And just try to do all the right things to put myself in a position to where if I'm called on I can go out and perform at my best. It's the small things right now that I have to work on. And the good thing is they're all correctable."
Vick really didn't need to take a sideline-to-sideline 22-yard sack against the Jets. Having run outside the tackle box on both sides of the field, he could have killed the play throwing the ball out of bounds, as most quarterbacks would have done.
"You and I would throw it out of bounds," Reid said. "But we've never run that fast."
Vick showed his burst early, beating a very fast Jets starting defense to the edge for a first down on third-and-one in the first quarter. Later in the game he took off on a 16-yard run.
"When you saw him get out of the pocket there, it looked like the old '7' from the Atlanta days," Eagles center Jamaal Jackson said. "He got the cobwebs off and he got hit a little bit. He just put his knees in the water a little bit. We can't wait to get him back out there."
How much Vick plays this season depends on how well he fits into the offense with Donovan McNabb, who has guided the Eagles to an 82-45-1 record as the starter in the regular season, and a 9-6 mark in the playoffs. McNabb complained that the use of Vick in another preseason game prevented the offense from getting into a rhythm,
Vick has vowed to be a full-time quarterback down the road. With a 38-28-1 career record, including 2-2 in the playoffs, it's hard to believe Reid would give current backup quarterback Kevin Kolb a lot of time to right the ship should McNabb gets hurt or fall into a horrendous slump. With just this year and next left on his contract, Reid might be inclined to go with Vick.
Then again, that issue won't be played out for at least a couple of weeks. By then it will be fairly obvious that the Eagles likely will activate all three quarterbacks on game day, rather than designating a third quarterback giving them 46 bodies. Another option would be to make Vick the backup and designate Kolb the third quarterback. If the third quarterback plays in the latter scenario, though, the other two cannot return to the game.
"It depends on how we work the roster on game day," Reid said. "But in the long haul here, Kevin is our No. 2 guy. That part I can tell you."
Whatever the situation, Vick still is months from coming all the way back from those off-the-field issues. Almost lost in the journey back is how far he's come.
"I see a humble guy who has made a concerted effort to change his life from where it was to where it is today," Reid said. "And he spent a couple of years doing it. It's something that he has worked very hard at to get the way he wants it. And I think that's where he's at right now."
For the next couple of weeks Vick won't be thinking about the $1.625 million he's scheduled to earn this season, or the $8 million he could make if he hits incentives in the second year of his contract. He'll be watching film of that Jets game to figure out how far he has to go to contribute in three weeks.
"It gives me something to think about," Vick said. "It gives me motivation and ambition to come back stronger. And when I'm working the next weeks, that's what I'm going to be thinking about - the bad things that happened in the game, while I'm correcting them.
"I'm about 90 percent. I'm almost there."