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Thursday, July 31, 2014
Vick bolts interview, pats reporter on rear

By Rich Cimini

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Michael Vick didn't get a single rep Thursday with the New York Jets' starting offense -- a training-camp first. He shrugged it off, claiming he's on board with the pro-Geno Smith plan, but apparently there's a limit to his patience when discussing the quarterback situation.

On the final question of an interview session with reporters, Vick was asked if he believes the coaches have made their decision.

"Decision about what?" he asked the questioner.

The quarterback job, of course.

"I'm outta here," the quarterback said, abruptly ending the interview session with his trademark burst.

Vick didn't seem angry. In fact, he acknowledged it was a "fair question" as he walked out of the interview tent, patting the reporter (yours truly) on the rear end.

After roughly 150 competition-related questions since signing with the Jets in March (probably not much of an exaggeration), Vick is tired of repeating himself. With no traces of animosity, he has said repeatedly he expects Smith to be the opening-day starter. Maybe it was one question too many, but it was relevant on this particular day, considering he worked exclusively with the backups.

Team officials refuse to acknowledge the obvious. They won't say it's Smith's job to lose. They won't say who will start the first preseason game next week. (It will be Smith, of course.) It's all about competition, they say. To his credit, Vick isn't afraid to deviate from the company line. He knows the deal: Smith needs the practice reps to get ready for Week 1.

"I think having all the first-team reps allows him to get into a rhythm with the receivers, develop that rapport with the first-team offensive line, with the running backs," Vick said. "You know, time is short. ... In four weeks, we'll be playing the first regular-season game, so it's time to buckle down and get everything situated, moving in the right direction and find the focus, as far as what our offense is going to be centered around."

In other words, Smith.

For those scoring at home, Smith has taken 104 of 131 practice reps (79 percent) with the first-team offense, unofficially -- slightly more than offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg anticipated at the start of camp. General manager John Idzik downplayed the disparity, insisting the so-called competition "isn't tilted." Right.

It's a delicate balance for Mornhinweg because he knows Smith, because of his relative lack of experience, needs as many reps as possible. But he doesn't want to leave Vick in the cold. Vick knows the offense, so it's not a mental thing, but he hasn't had much time to build chemistry with the starters. That could become an issue if, for some reason, he's forced into the lineup.

"I'm trying to get him more than a handful with the first team," Mornhinweg said.

Naturally, Smith is soaking up the situation. He needs the work. He knows it.

"As many reps as you can get will help you out, and I'm a living testament to that," he said. "I can just see the growth in myself and in the guys around me due to that."

Mornhinweg described Smith's camp performance this way: Several good days, one subpar day. In seven practices, he's thrown only two interceptions in team drills. Perspective is required, of course. It's still very early in the process. Nevertheless, Mornhinweg said of Smith's turnover problem, "He's got that thing fixed and we'll see if it stays fixed."

Vick knows it's Smith's team and Smith's time.

"I won't stand in the way of that," he said.

He just won't stand for certain questions.