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Eagles giving QB Vick his first start in almost four years

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb didn't pass the second phase of concussion testing Wednesday, so backup Michael Vick will start this weekend against the Detroit Lions, a league source told NFL Network insider Michael Lombardi.

The *Philadelphia Inquirer* also reported Thursday morning that Vick will start.

It will be Vick's first start in 45 months. The last time he started a game was on Dec. 31, 2006, with the Atlanta Falcons.

Once Kolb and middle linebacker Stewart Bradley pass the second phase of testing -- they will have another opportunity Thursday -- a third portion would be a doctor's evaluation, which had been scheduled for Friday. Once all three phases have been passed, Kolb and Bradley would be cleared to play, but the Eagles won't wait on the quarterback for Sunday's game.

Kolb and Bradley each sustained a concussion during the first half of a 27-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday.

Vick played well in the loss, a fact that's even more impressive considering how long it had been since the former Pro Bowl quarterback played meaningful minutes in the NFL.

A total of 1,350 days, to be exact. In football terms, that's an eternity.

Yet there he was, the same old No. 7, once known for throwing a football harder and farther than just about anyone. Back then, Vick was just as exciting running as the best running backs because of his ability to slice one way, cut the other way and race by everybody.

Four years later, he was doing it again.

"It was gratifying to go out and have fun playing the game of football, playing the way I like to play and playing the way the game is dictated and just have fun," Vick said Wednesday.

"Sometimes we have a tendency to make the game more serious than what it is and put a lot of pressure on ourselves, which is normal, which is good," he added, "because you have to do that in order to bring the best out of yourself."

Instead of a half, Vick will have four quarters to showcase his skills against the Lions and silence the critics who said he'd never resuscitate his career after spending 18 months in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting operation.

"My primary focus is to put this team in position to win," Vick said. "That's the ultimate goal. You can't go out and try to prove yourself because that adds more pressure to this game."

Vick already did enough to create a quarterback controversy among fans and media in Philadelphia. But there's no question who the No. 1 guy is for the Eagles. Coach Andy Reid insists Kolb will be the starter when he's healthy.

"I don't want to slight Michael at all in this, because I am so happy for this kid and the progress that he's made since being incarcerated, in both life and on the football field, and he's worked so stinking hard to get himself to this position," Reid said. "He did a great job. On the other hand, Kevin's the starting quarterback for this football team."

Vick has become the people's choice among the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately crowd, though. That's quite the turnaround for a guy who was greeted by protests from animal rights activists and outraged fans when he signed with the Eagles last summer.

Vick saw limited action playing behind Donovan McNabb and Kolb last season. Vick threw 13 passes, ran 24 times and accounted for just 181 yards and three touchdowns while mostly running a variation of the Wildcat offense.

Clearly, Vick wasn't the same guy who revolutionized his position, set rushing records and routinely made head-spinning, highlight-reel plays during six seasons in Atlanta.

By the time he was 25, Vick was an iconic figure who moved merchandise -- video games, high-priced sneakers, replica jerseys -- and made the Falcons so popular that a franchise that used to have trouble selling out games had a waiting list for season tickets.

Vick also had a 10-year, $130 million contract that was the richest deal in NFL history.

Vick lost everything when he went to jail, but the Eagles gave him a second chance, and he has done everything possible to turn around his life and his career.

"Since the day I got here, I've been working as hard as I can and as diligently as I can to get better," Vick said. "You want to strive to be great and you want to be perfect. We all know you can't be perfect, but you want to strive for perfection. That's what we try to do."

After missing two years, Vick obviously needed time to work himself back into football shape. He also had to learn a new offense and improve different aspects of his game. Vick had success in Atlanta, leading the Falcons to the NFC Championship Game against the Eagles in just his second full season as a starter in 2004, but he was far from a polished quarterback.

McNabb was an ideal mentor because they had similar skills, and Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg are excellent teachers. And for 13 months, Vick has improved.

"The system that we're running here, he's done very well at picking it up," Reid said, "and he's working very hard not only condition-wise, but also just the fundamentals of playing."

Kolb and the rest of the offense looked awful during the first half against the Packers in the first game in the post-McNabb era. Then his backup came in, started making plays and nearly rallied the Eagles to a comeback victory. The Packers held on for a seven-point win, but Vick completed 16 of 24 passes for 175 yards and one touchdown, and scrambled for 103 yards.

Vick demonstrated his uncanny escapability, displayed his lightning-quick speed and showed off his powerful arm. He eluded sacks, outran tacklers and fired throws on the run.

"I had the old feel back," Vick said.

His swagger, too.

"I still feel like I can play at a high level," Vick said. "I feel like if I had been out there for four quarters, maybe we would have had a chance to win the game. I feel like I'm like 25 or 26 again, even though that's not the case."

Vick, 30, perhaps feels younger because his body hasn't taken a pounding since '06, when he became the only quarterback in NFL history to run for 1,000 yards.

"In this offense, Marty allows you to get into a rhythm," Vick said. "Play-calling is everything, and putting guys in the right positions and telling them what to do and they do exactly what you tell them to do, then you're going to excel, you're going to be successful.

"Here, you have no choice but to get better in the passing game," he added. "It's like a passing camp during the summer."

Vick might have a tougher time as a starter this week.

The Packers didn't plan for Vick, and they had a comfortable lead in the second half, so they played more of a prevent defense and backed off blitzing. The Lions will have a chance to prepare, likely assigning a spy to limit Vick's scrambling.

"It's important that he focuses in on being in that pocket and throwing the football, and he's done that since he's got here," Reid said. "He's really handled that very well."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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