FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Michael Vick knows he has a lot of football left in him.
He sees it when he watches himself on film. He feels it when he zips around the field and flings the ball downfield.
“I think that I’m a better quarterback now than I was last year,” Vick declared Friday. “I know that for a fact.”
It’s hard to argue with him, especially after a solid summer in which he looked anything but a 34-year-old quarterback in the twilight of his career.
But unlike last year with the Philadelphia Eagles, the New York Jets backup quarterback will open the regular season on the sideline. He’ll be watching Geno Smith lead the Jets at home against the Oakland Raiders. It’s a role he has accepted, but he’s far from content with it.
“It’s a different adjustment that I have to make,” Vick said. “Coming to New York, I already understood the sacrifices that I would have to make here internally and to myself. The only thing could come up with was to be the best player I can be at all times and keep striving to be the best and keep being positive.”
That means he worked most of training camp with the backups on offense, and with the scout team all this week. That could be a blow to the ego for most stars. Vick insists he’s just trying to take it all in stride.
“I’m used to getting all the No. 1 reps, and now I get scout team reps, but hey, I take pride in them, too,” he said. “Anything to help the team out, anything to help this team win or give them an edge, I’m doing the best that I can. And I’m going to continue to do that and continue to be an asset.”
The Jets invested this offseason to giving Smith every opportunity to prove in his second season that he can be a franchise-type quarterback – or at least take steps in that direction. They signed Vick in March as insurance, an experienced and highly effective backup who could step in in a pinch, if needed.
“I’ve got to stay ready,” Vick said. “I don’t get all the physical reps now. They’re all mental. I have to make sure that my head is in the game at all times, so if I’m not out there practicing and doing it, then I’ve got to do it mentally.”
There’s no doubt that Vick would love more than anything to run out of the tunnel at MetLife Stadium on Sunday as the starter. But he doesn’t wish ill will on Smith. Just the opposite, actually.
Vick and Smith have established a solid working relationship, a mentor and student situation that has benefited the young quarterback.
“He’s been great for Geno,” quarterbacks coach David Lee said. “They get along just really well and they trust each other. Mike’s been dead honest. I hear those comments and he’s done nothing, but I think, enhance Geno’s chances of being a better pro quarterback.”
Vick knows what he’s talking about, of course, since he’s a four-time Pro Bowl selection and was regularly regarded as one of the league’s most dynamic players in his prime. He has heard about some of the preseason predictions, with one poll this summer ranking Smith as the worst starting quarterback in the NFL.
“I’ll tell you this: I guess they had him ranked 32nd? That won’t be the case,” Vick said. “I know through all that hard work and what we’ve set out to accomplish that number may jump, times five. We’ll see. I’m just excited for him. We’ve worked hard, and the time has come.”
Vick has come a long way from his days of turning the football field into his own personal version of the Madden video games, driving defenses crazy and making fans’ jaws drop with every electrifying play.
He has also come a long way from the man who served nearly two years in prison for his role in a dog fighting ring, pausing his NFL career and being despised by many for his actions.
Vick is older, wiser and humbled now, and says he “absolutely” wishes he knew back then as a young player some of the things he knows now.
“I think that’s just growth,” Vick said. “That’s the maturation process that you go through as a football player. There’s a couple of other things I wish I knew, but at the same time, I kind of relish the moment.
“I cherish it, and I appreciate where I’m at today.”
Even if it’s from the sideline.
NOTES: Vick confirmed he will do a spot with WFAN’s Mike Francesa next Tuesday, but it might not be a weekly spot – as originally believed. He’s also prepared for the veteran New York-based host’s sometimes-combative style. “Nah, I can get him riled up,” Vick said with a smile. “You can’t rile me. You see what I go through every Sunday? You can’t rile me with words.”
(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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