But there was a sense that more was being communicated than Vick’s unavailability for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys and the two players’ mutual admiration, respect and even “love” for each other. It wasn’t as if Vick literally handed a torch or a baton to Foles, but that was the general tone.
“Regardless of what happens,” Vick said, “it’s all about rooting for one another. This is a fun game. You can’t have animosity toward a teammate because of the way he plays, or what people want, or the way they feel. We’re going to always root for one another and be there for one another, and whatever comes out of it, it’s going to be all good for both of us.”
Michael Vick and Nick Foles spoke Thursday not so much as competitors against one another, but rather as teammates with a shared goal.
Things have changed quickly since Vick pulled his hamstring two Sundays ago at the Meadowlands. Immediately after Foles played the second half in a victory over the New York Giants on Oct. 6, Kelly said Vick would be the No. 1 quarterback when he was healthy.
Much was made of something Kelly said when he named Vick his No. 1 quarterback.
“This is a one-quarterback operation,” Kelly said on Aug. 20. “This isn't going to be 'Someone's got to look over their shoulder,' or 'We're going to alternate by series.'”
But as Vick’s injury has lingered deep into a second practice week, and with Foles winning offensive player of the week honors in his first start, maybe the focus should be on a different Kelly quote, one he repeated a number of times over the summer:
“The best ability is durability,” Kelly said.
Vick’s durability is a legitimate concern. Sunday’s game will be his 11th missed start in 39 games over the last three seasons.
On Thursday, Kelly was asked his view of the old football principle that a starter should never lose his job because of injury.
“I think it all depends on the individual situation,” Kelly said.
But Vick could lose the job not because of this one injury, but rather because of the importance of durability and continuity at the quarterback position.
“We can’t look that far down the road,” Vick said. “We’ve got to take care of what we can take care of this week. I’m working to get myself back to 100 percent. Until then, Nick is the quarterback of this team and that’s where we stand.”
It must be remembered how Vick got the starting job in the first place.
Three years ago, Vick was the No. 2 quarterback. Starter Kevin Kolb was knocked out of the season opener against Green Bay with a concussion. Vick played well that day and in a start against Detroit the following week. Then coach Andy Reid, who originally said Kolb would be the starter when healthy, changed his mind and anointed Vick his No. 1 quarterback.
“That was an exciting time for me,” Vick said. “It was everything that I wanted, everything that I dreamed of. The way it happened, it was what it was. I didn’t think I was going to be the starter for the rest of the season, but that was the way the good Lord had it all planned out.”
That was one “individual situation.” The current one has three main characters:
• Vick, whose assessment of the injury and his recovery sounds very much like an athlete learning that his 33-year-old body isn’t the same as his 25-year-old body.
“I just can’t rush it,” Vick said. “I came out and tried to push it a little bit, tried to run a little faster. I was able to do that, but at the same time I don’t want to push it too much. I want to let things happen naturally.”
• Foles, who was very good during the competition with Vick in the summer and has been even better in six-plus quarters since Vick was injured.
“I’m not trying to do anything [as far as becoming No. 1],” Foles said. “I’m trying to win the game, as a team. You have to play this game for the right reasons. I’m sure Mike, too -- the reason we play quarterback is we want the ball in our hand every time. I don’t worry about [the future], I just worry about what I can take care of today.”
• Kelly, who can let the situation “express itself,” as he likes to say, for another week before making a decision. If Foles is as good against Dallas on Sunday as he was in Tampa, Kelly can stay with him, citing performance and Vick’s lack of that all-important durability. If Foles struggles, Kelly can go back to Vick for a very winnable division game against the Giants.
At best, Kelly has two quarterbacks he can win with. At worst, he will have learned quite a bit about both of them as he builds his program for 2014 and beyond. No matter what, based on their repartee on Thursday, Vick and Foles will handle the outcome without rancor.
“I understand the nature of this business,” Vick said. “I understand how things go. I’m very confident in what I can do. When I’m needed, I’ll be there.”