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Reid needs to toe a fine line on how he uses Vick, Eagles' other QBs

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PHILADELPHIA -- Michael Vick's return to the NFL was celebrated by him watching Kevin Kolb establish himself as the Philadelphia Eagles' second-best quarterback. It was ushered in by having coach Andy Reid use Vick to hand off the ball and witness other players make things happen. Not quite baptism by fire, for sure.

Vick took part in 11 plays that totaled 30 yards. His personal stake of those 30: Zero yards on two pass attempts, 7 on one run.

"It was a small look," Vick said of his role in the Eagles' 34-14 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. "We have so much still for the future. We just wanted to go out there and get some looks and see how they were going to play and not tip our hand to what we really wanted to do with this Wildcat thing. We've got a lot of different variations, and it's going to be exciting, and I just want to contribute."

It was hard to tell if Vick was rusty or if he still has anything left after spending two years away from the game while serving time on federal dogfighting charges. After a 7-yard run on the Eagles' second series, Vick was used as a shotgun-formation, hand-off specialist, except on one occasion in the third quarter when he ran an old-fashioned, Thomas Lott, Oklahoma-style speed option. Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali planted him.

Michael Perez / Associated Press
Michael Vick's return to the NFL was overshadowed by the continued success of Kevin Kolb (above), who posted another impressive stat line while starting in place of injured Eagles QB Donovan McNabb.
Most pass yards in first two career starts (since 1950)
Player
Team
Season(s)
Yards
2009
718
1991-92
638
1994
634
2000
631
1987
631

It's a pretty safe bet that Donovan McNabb won't run that play after he recovers from a fractured rib that caused him to miss his second consecutive game.

The Eagles didn't ask Vick, once arguably the NFL's most exciting player, to do anything more than Kolb or Jeff Garcia or McNabb would -- except maybe run that option play.

Yes, Vick should be grateful for even having the opportunity to do as little as he did -- and be paid for it -- since few teams would invite a player who outraged much of a nation and torched the Atlanta Falcons, for whom he was an icon before his fall from grace. And Vick is grateful. He'd much rather be doing this than finding another line of work to pay off his millions in debt.

But Vick is a competitor. A competitor made of the ilk of some of the greatest ever. He wants to make something special happen on every play, and he puts every fiber of his heart into every play. Handing off the ball six or seven times per game might not cut it. Though Vick won't grouse, at some point, he'll want to pull that handoff out of the running back's clutches, peel off around the end and try to make something happen. He'll want to fire a ball deep to an open receiver and run downfield to celebrate with his target.

This isn't a guy who will ever grow accustomed to being the wooden mallard on the pond, no matter how grateful or gracious he is.

"It is definitely a different scenario," Vick said. "It's hard. I've never been in this situation before. So the thing I tell myself is to stay warm, try to stay loose and try to stay in gear so when my number is called, I'm into the game and I'm in tune with what's going on with the offense, and I can go out there and play within the framework of the offense. It's a different role. That's what it is."

Vick is playing the role with ideal professionalism. He said he knew he would be in about 12 plays Sunday and acknowledged that "I can't be out there five or six plays. It takes away from the rhythm of the offense."

Even with Vick's sporadic usage, the Eagles' offensive tempo would be disjointed when he would run on the field, Kolb would run off and a new voice was heard in the huddle. It wasn't a big problem Sunday because the Chiefs were such a fallible mark. But what if this was in a heated stretch of a game against the NFC East rival New York Giants? Would Vick even be used? Will he be merely a comfort player in comfortable situations?

Matt Slocum / Associated Press
Eagles QB Michael Vick failed to throw a completed pass on either of his two attempts.

"We wanted to get him in and get him into game-playing speed while knocking off some rust," Reid said. "I think we accomplished that. We'll see how Michael progresses here."

Added Kolb: "It was fine. We let a couple third downs slip away there, but I thought Michael did a good job when he came in. Although he really didn't get a chance to really pull and show his stuff, he was making perfect reads, and we talked about that. ... Everybody wants to see a flash, but he has to do what's right with the ball, and he did that all day."

It will be interesting to see how Reid massages his quarterbacks. After a bye next week, McNabb should return to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 11. Kolb, who became the first quarterback to post consecutive 300-plus yard games in his first two NFL starts, showed he is a capable backup. With Jeff Garcia on the roster along with Vick, some shuffling will have to take place.

Philadelphia had all three quarterbacks (minus the injured McNabb) on its 45-man active roster Sunday. The decision to keep all three was made easier by having running back Brian Westbrook (ankle) and wide receiver Kevin Curtis (knee) out with injuries. When McNabb returns, will Garcia be released? Will Vick be the No. 3?

Reid said Sunday that had Kolb been hurt early, he would have inserted Garcia as the replacement. So maybe Vick isn't quite as up to speed with the offense as some of us thought. Or maybe he's simply a gimmick player, a Kordell Stewart/Antwaan Randle El-type who has been taught more Wildcat stuff than Eagle stuff. Vick seems to believe he is more of the latter.

"Some games are going to be different," he said. "Some games, it's going to be a defensive battle. Some games are going to be a shootout. So that's going to be part of the determining factor of how much we run the Wildcat. So, will this be effective or ineffective? It remains to be seen."

While Vick must grow accustomed to playing limited snaps after taking none since 2006, it seems certain that McNabb will have to grow accustomed to Vick, DeSean Jackson and Westbrook taking him out of the flow. In the blowout of the Chiefs, the Eagles took 63 offensive snaps. If Vick takes 10 to 12 per game and Jackson and/or Westbrook receive three or four, that leaves McNabb with fewer than 50 snaps -- on a good day.

The Eagles need to hope that the other guys taking plays from McNabb do something with their chances. Otherwise, that will only add more pressure on McNabb, who threw for a career-best 3,916 yards last season, to make plays.

While much is uncertain, this much is certain: Vick's teammates believe that he made the Eagles better on Sunday, despite his tempered role, and that he will for many more Sundays.

"That's all we care about," safety Quentin Mikell said.

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