How Is Eagles QB Michael Vick Getting Hurt, and What Must He Do to Stay Healthy?
His continued absences have put a handicap on what talented Eagles rosters could accomplish. Just last season, the Eagles went 7-2 in games he started and played every snap. In games he missed or was forced out of (even for a play), Philadelphia went 1-6.
Overall, the Eagles are just 4-4 in games he's missed as a starting quarterback.
With that information in hand, one could realistically argue the single biggest factor in the Eagles' 2012 season is keeping Vick healthy for 16 games.
How can Vick accomplish this?
First we need to take a look at how his injuries have happened. Then we can diagnosis a solution.
Here's a description of each of Vick's injuries with the Eagles (all screen grabs courtesy of NFL Game Rewind):
Aug. 20, 2012 vs. Patriots (ribs)
During the Eagles' third preseason game, Vick avoided initial pressure in the pocket, but was drilled by the Patriots' Jermaine Cunningham just as he was releasing a pass.
The blow to Vick came directly to the ribs. He was taken out of the game, but X-rays were negative.
Aug. 9, 2012 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (thumb)
A fluke injury, as Vick bangs his left thumb on his center's helmet as he is releasing a pass. Vick leaves the game but is seen on the sidelines icing the thumb.
Again, X-rays come back negative. He returned the next week against New England only to leave again early.
Nov. 13, 2011 vs. Arizona Cardinals (ribs)
On the Eagles' second play from scrimmage, Vick is speared by Cardinals linebacker Darryl Washington as he's releasing a short throw. It appeared as if Vick absorbed the blow right underneath his left arm.
X-rays after the game would confirm Vick broke his ribs on the hit. However, Vick stayed in the contest and completed 16-of-34 passes for 128 yards and two picks.
The Cardinals would send the Eagles to one of the worst losses of the season, 21-17. At 3-6, and with Vick schedule to miss three games, many counted the Eagles out.
Sept. 25, 2011 vs. New York Giants (bruised hand)
In the third quarter, Vick completes a nice touch pass to Jeremy Maclin for 23 yards. But after the release, Giants defensive end Chris Canty delivers a vicious hit that puts Vick on the turf. No flag is called despite a clear roughing the passer penalty.
While it appears that another head injury may have occurred, Vick eventually leaves with what is initially ruled as a broken hand. The Eagles later call it a contusion, or a fancy word for bruise. He leaves the game in the fourth quarter as Philadelphia loses to New York at home, 29-16.
Sept. 18, 2011 vs. Atlanta Falcons (concussion)
Vick was forced to leave a Week 2 game with the Falcons after getting spun around and colliding helmet to helmet with Eagles offensive lineman Todd Herremans. John Abraham got his hands on Vick just as he was letting loose a throw, and the freak injury happened as he was getting drug down.
He would leave with a concussion, leaving Mike Kafka as the only healthy Eagles quarterback. Philadelphia would lose, 35-31, as Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan rallied Atlanta.
Despite the wicked collision, Vick would pass his concussion testing and return the next week.
Oct. 3, 2010 vs. Washington Redskins (ribs)
On a 3rd-and-6 play in the first quarter, Vick scrambles out of the pocket and nearly scores, but he's sandwiched between two defenders as he nears the goal line. Vick remains down on the turf for several moments while the referees call a holding penalty, negating the run.
Vick comes off the field holding his arm and rib area. He doesn't return, and the Eagles lose to the Donovan McNabb-led Redskins, 17-12.
Later diagnosis reveals Vick injured his rib cartilage. He misses three weeks while Kevin Kolb starts in his place.
Dec. 20, 2009 vs. San Francisco 49ers (thigh)
Back when McNabb was still the starting quarterback, Vick received snaps from the Wildcat formation. On this particular occasion during the first quarter, Vick runs into the line and picks up a few yards, but his thigh takes a direct hit from a helmet.
He limps off the field and doesn't play the rest of the game. Vick's thigh is diagnosed with a bruise, and he misses the rest of the regular season (two games) with the injury.
Most will say that Vick gets hurt when he runs out of the pocket and stretches plays, but the fact is he has been hurt five out of seven times in Philadelphia inside the pocket. Only twice—scrambling against Washington and on a designed run in 2009—did Vick hurt himself while trying to make a play with his legs.
What does Vick need to do to stay more healthy?
For starters, he needs to be better in blitz recognition. Far too often, a free blitzer is set loose and Vick takes a shot he wouldn't have had to. The best quarterbacks in the game not only escape pressure, but also eliminate it in the pre-snap period. Vick needs to be better there.
The offensive line needs to be better in pass protection, too. On some of these injuries, the pre-snap read is correct and the blocking is available. But the protection ends up busted and Vick is forced into a throw where he is taking a big hit without much protection.
Still, Vick has made a conscious effort to protect himself more moving forward. That includes sliding before a big hit and getting out of bounds before a defender can lay his shoulder into his.
Vick understands he needs to be on the field.
Here's what he said this offseason to 97.5 The Fan in Philadelphia, via Pro Football Talk:
I want to make a promise to all my fans that I’m going to make a conscious effort, a cognitive effort, to make sure that I protect myself. And you know my motto has been this for the last six months, and I repeatedly said to myself: ‘Get the next yard on the next play.’ You know, whether I’m running the football or scrambling or trying to do something improvising. Get the next yard on the next play. That’s why you have second down and third down, and possibly fourth down. So you can give yourself opportunity...If you’re not on the field, then you don’t have that chance. So I just want to give myself ample opportunity.
Vick is also wearing a protective vest, which should help cut down on the numerous rib injuries he's suffered in the past.
Rob Vito, the CEO of the company making the vest, guaranteed Vick's health to ESPN after it was discovered Vick would be wearing the new military-grade, Kevlar-infused vest this season.
Vick liked the idea.
I'm looking forward to it … to give me more protection and just to see what comes out of it. It's going to be custom-fitted and fitted to protect all across my sternum, across my ribs. I think it'll be a better fit.
Overall, the Eagles' offensive line needs to do a better job of protecting their pricey investment. Too many times Vick takes hits he shouldn't. This is a quarterback that plays more reckless than any other at his position in NFL history, but recent history suggests Vick is more prone to injury when standing in the pocket.
If that happens, and Vick is able to stay healthy for 16 games, the Eagles are a Super Bowl contender in the talented NFC. They'd probably be a front-runner for the NFC East, too.
But if Vick gets hurt again, whether it's inside or outside the pocket, the 2012 Eagles could go up in smoke just like the year prior. For Philadelphia's sake, let's hope everyone involved has a better understanding of how to keep its quarterback off the training table.
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