Jason Avant is a guy who knows how to find the open holes in the zone defense. Avant, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver, has been a sure-handed receiver for Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.
Avant will pick his spots on Sunday afternoon (FOX Channel 29, 1 p.m.) when the Eagles (3-2) host the Detroit Lions (1-3) at Lincoln Financial Field. The 6-foot, 212-pounder, will try to give the Eagles offense a boost. The team is averaging just 16 points a game.
“You have to be savvy when it comes to watch film and finding where the holes are,” Avant said. “I think that’s the biggest thing when it comes to the defense. If it’s a zone team, you can look at the safeties and see what they’re doing. When you already know where the weak spots are you try to get there before the defense gets there.”
Avant has 14 receptions for 162 yards. He averages 11.6 yards a catch. The Eagles have been able to move the ball up and down the field this season. Of course, the turnovers have really stopped them. Vick had a bad day handling the ball in the 16-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday. He had four fumbles, two of those were recovered by the Steelers. Avant has confidence that Vick will do a better job of handling the football.
“When you look at some of the things like the one in the end zone,” Avant said. “He had both hands on the ball. It’s just one of those things. I believe that he’s an integral part of our team and if it’s being talked about and called out and those type of things. I’m pretty sure it’s going to give him more motivation to make sure that he’s protecting the football. We have total confidence in him.”
Avant feels there are a number of little things the Eagles can do to improve the passing game. Avant doesn’t believe the Eagles have to make a lot of spectacular plays. He just wants to do the things to help the team win.
“I believe there’s multiple different ways of winning the game,” Avant said. “We played against the Giants. We didn’t have many big plays, but we protected the football and were able to win the game at the end of the game. You want to be in position to win the game at the end of the game and that’s my biggest thing. I don’t really go out there and say, ‘Okay we need five big plays.’ That’s not what I’m about. As a team, we want to go out and put ourselves in position to win in the fourth quarter.”
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, has written a book titled “Finally Free.” The autobiography will be available on Sept. 4. The book, published by Worthy Publishing, talks about Vick’s life on and off the field. Tony Dungy, former Indianapolis Colts head coach, wrote the foreword. Here are some excerpts from the book.
Chapter 5—The Fall
I saw my first dogfight when I was eight. One day, a friend and I stepped outside the building where I lived in the Ridley Circle housing project and saw kids and their bicycles surrounding a grassy area where we usually played football. But instead of a football game, about eight pit bull terriers were gathered. Most people don’t know this, but back then, just as is the case now, I am scared to death of dogs I don’t know. So my friend and I jumped on top of a mailbox to give us spectator seats at a safe distance from what was happening.
From our ringside seats, we saw guys putting their dogs’ faces right in front of one another. The dogs would grab and fight. I remember two of them were fighting when a third, smaller dog jumped on the back of one of the larger dogs to make it two-on-one. I didn’t know what to think of it all. In a way, it captured my attention. But it also seemed mean, even cruel. The bottom line, however, is that right there, on that very day, my fascination with dogfighting began. It’s something I wish had never, ever happened.
Chapter 7—Family Matters
I’ll never forget it. We were watching television together, and a clip of me playing football came up on the screen. Then it came across the news that “Michael Vick could be sentenced to several years in prison.” Mitez immediately burst out crying — uncontrollably.
“I don’t want you to go to jail!” he screamed.
I was hurt. I was ashamed. And it was all my fault.
How disappointing is that for your son to be watching you on TV and they show a highlight of you in an NFL uniform — which he’s accustomed to seeing you doing — and in the next breath, they’re talking about you going to prison? That’s folly. That’s confusion. I didn’t know what to tell him other than be honest. I told him why I was going to jail. And all I could do was pray everything would turn out right.
I was no longer No. 7, the football player. I was inmate No. 33765-183, and I couldn’t change that, regardless of the fact that this number definitely didn’t fit me. I had that number on every day. I had to write it on each piece of mail that I sent out. It will forever be embedded in my brain.
Chapter 13—MV 2.0
I was on stage, and my phone kept vibrating in my pocket.
“C’mon,” I was thinking to myself. Is it that serious?”
The week following our victory against Detroit, I was speaking to youth at a “What It Takes” event about the mistakes I made and the importance of making good choices. But my phone kept vibrating — over and over.
When I checked my phone, I had a text from Coach Reid saying, “Call me ASAP.”
I knew exactly what it was about. I knew he’d either tell me “You’ll start this week,” or Kevin isn’t ready yet.”
I called Coach Reid.
He always started phone conversations awkwardly with a quick, “How ya doing?”
“Good,” I said.
Then there was a long pause.
“Look here,” he said, dragging the conversation out a little. “I’m gonna make you the starter.”
Chapter 14—Moving Forward
Philadelphia took a chance on me. Many people, like Andy Reid, Tony Dungy and Roger Goodell, took a chance on me. Through it all — my rise, fall, and ongoing redemption — I had support. I had support from my family, friends and fans. They didn’t have to support me, but they did. People didn’t have to write me letters, but they did.
My story is not finished. I have more to do. I have something that I want to give back to everyone that supported me. Here it is: I am committed, focused and determined to win a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles. This is my promise. It is my drive. I will work like a champion to get there. I want to do it for my family, friends, mentors, coaches, teammates, and fans. I want to do it for Philly.
It’s not every day an NFL team comes to your neighborhood school to put together a playground for the students. That’s why there was so much excitement when the Philadelphia Eagles came out to the Comegys Elementary School at 51st Street and Greenway Avenue.
The Eagles Youth Partnership (EYP) and the Philadelphia Eagles worked with the Southwest Philadelphia school for the 16th annual Eagles Playground Build. The students joined a number of players such as quarterback Michael Vick, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, running back LeSean McCoy, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and linebacker Demeco Ryans in painting the exterior and interior murals, laying mosaic tiles on benches and tables, constructing a large play structure and planting gardens. A turf field was also installed to give the students an area to play field sports.
Comegys School has more than 450 students from kindergarten through 6th grade. The school was chosen by EYP and the School District of Philadelphia for the playground build. The murals were created by a team of artists, led by David McShane, from the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.
Lisa Wilmer, principal at Comegys School, was very impressed with the efforts of the Eagles, volunteers, students and staff. Wilmer remembers the day when her school was selected for the playground build.
“It was a busy day that day,” Wilmer said. “So, to get the phone call at the end of the day that says ‘Congratulations! You won the Eagles Playground Build’ was just awesome. We had been trying for years to get the playground. We always came in second place, but this is our year.
“You can see the joy in the eyes of the kids. We have volunteers who are community members. They just wanted to come and help. It’s bringing the community together. The staff has been great. Everybody is proud. You’re proud to be a Comegys student and staff member. I’m just happy to be the principal.”
Christina Weiss Lurie, president of EYP, has been involved with this neighborhood effort for a long time.
“This is the 16th playground build or as I call it ‘school transformation,” said Weiss Lurie, wife of Jeffrey Lurie, chairman and CEO of the Eagles. “We’re just so excited to be here and to watch the kids with their big eyes watching their playground gradually take hold whether it’s field or the garden or the mosaic, murals or the playground structure. Now, they have a safe place to be kids and dream their dreams of what they want to do as they grow old.”
The players have been really busy with the OTAs. However, McCoy was happy to spend time with the kids.
“It’s great to come out and hang with the kids and the fans,” McCoy said. “It’s a good thing to give back. This is where it really counts off the field where we can go out and do some good deeds.”
Earlier this spring Vick was playing chess against some of the city’s best players. This week he was helping to paint one of the murals at the school playground.
“I’m really enjoying this,” Vick said. “It’s going to be nice to ride past the school and say hey, ‘I made a contribution to the school.’ This is a school in the community. I think to bring our team out here to paint the school and make a contribution is phenomenal.”
The Philadelphia Eagles just wrapped OTAs and now the players are off until training camp, which begins next month. The Eagles training camp will take place at Lehigh University. The rookies and quarterbacks will report on July 22. The remaining veterans will arrive on July 25.
The Eagles would appear to be heading into the 2012 season in much better shape than a year ago. They have all the important pieces under contract in players like wide receiver DeSean Jackson and running back LeSean McCoy. In addition, players such as cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha had all of mini-camp to work together. DeMeco Ryans, the Eagles newly acquired middle linebacker, had a chance to get acclimated to the team’s system as well.
Andy Reid, Eagles head coach, has been pleased with the way his team has worked during the offseason. Reid can see the team has been playing with plenty of energy.
“You saw that last year,” Reid said. “I think that’s something that they’ve carried over into this year. The d-line (defensive line) starts it off, and the o-line (offensive line), even though they can’t really compete right now, keeps it loud and exciting. It’s a good atmosphere. There’s no pads on here so they can’t really compete. With the back end guys, it’s just contagious and it carries on into the linebackers and the secondary. Those guys can compete. They can’t do bump-and-run, but they can compete. Likewise on the offensive side, the guys are challenging each other and trying to get better.”
The Eagles certainly want to play better than last year. The team posted an 8-8 record and didn’t go to the playoffs. They did finish the season on a high note winning their last four games against the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins.
Michael Vick, Eagles quarterback, struggled with injuries and some inconsistency. Vick threw for 3,303 yards with 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The Eagles need a big year from their signal caller.
“Michael knows what he needs to do and he’s worked like crazy,” Reid said. “One of the reasons that we’ve had the attendance here that we’ve had and one of the reasons that we’ve had energy is Michael Vick. He was here and he hasn’t missed a workout. He’s the one who’s out here motivating that energy and making the players around him be here. He’s done a great job of that this offseason.”
The Eagles first preseason game will be against the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 9 at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles will open the regular season against the Cleveland Browns on the road on Sept. 9. The home opener will be on September 16 against the Baltimore Ravens.
NOTE: The Eagles announced that single-game tickets will go on sale for all 10 home games for the 2012 season on June 21 at 10 a.m. Fans can purchase tickets at that time by going to www.philadelphiaeagles.com. Prices range from $70 to $95 and there is a four-ticket limit per household.
Michael Vick took a significant pay cut to stay with the Philadelphia Eagles and compete for a starting job.
The four-time Pro Bowl quarterback agreed Monday to a restructured three-year contract with the Eagles, just two seasons after signing a $100 million extension that included $35.5 million in guaranteed money. The new deal is essentially for one-year, however.
A source familiar with the contract said Vick could earn up to $10 million in 2013 if he meets all his performance incentives, and the team will void the remaining two years on March 15. That person spoke on condition of anonymity because the terms haven't been released.
Vick was slated to earn about $16 million next season, including a $3 million roster bonus. He lost his starting job to rookie Nick Foles last season, but new coach Chip Kelly will give him a chance to win it back.
"I am grateful and proud to be a Philadelphia Eagle," Vick wrote on Twitter. "My heart is in Philly and this community is important to me."
Vick had a breakout year in 2010, leading the Eagles to the NFC East title, winning The Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year award and starting in the Pro Bowl. But he's battled injuries and inconsistency the last two years.
"What I look at is skillset first and foremost," Kelly said. "What he can do, how he can throw the football, how he can beat people with his feet. There are a lot of different factors he has. And you have to look at the landscape for other quarterbacks. I guess the best way I can put this is I agree there is a change of scenery going on here. For Michael Vick, there is a change of scenery, but not a change of address."
Since the Eagles hired Kelly to replace Andy Reid, there's been plenty of speculation about which quarterback will run his aggressive, up-tempo offense. Though Kelly has been effusive in his praise for Foles, the slow-footed, pocket-passer isn't an ideal fit for a zone-read offense. Kelly, though, said he will cater his offense around his players' strengths. After all, he's known for being an offensive innovator who had tremendous success at Oregon.
"I don't think what we do offensively can be said in one or two words that we're either this or we're this," Kelly said. "We're an equal-opportunity scoring operation. Whether we run the ball over the goal line or throw the ball over the goal line really doesn't bother me, it's how do we move the football.
"There have been games we've had to throw it in our league 50 times and there are games we have to run it 50 times. You need to be built for the long haul. There is a skill set that Nick has that really excites me about him. I think we've got an older quarterback in Michael who is 32 now, and have a younger guy in Nick who is going into his second year, and I think it's the ideal situation for us moving forward this season."
Kelly didn't rule out a trade, however.
"I don't rule anything out, I don't rule anything in," he said. "But I know moving forward we, as an organization, had to make a decision on what to do with Michael, and I want Michael to be part of this team."
Vick has missed 11 games because of injuries over the last three seasons. He sustained a concussion in Week 10 last year and Reid decided to let Foles play the rest of the way because the Eagles were in last place. They finished 4-12.
Vick returned to start the season finale against the New York Giants because Foles was hurt. He finished the year with 2,362 yards passing, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and also lost five fumbles.
A former No. 1 overall pick by Atlanta, Vick was signed by Philadelphia in 2009 after missing two years because he was in federal prison. He came in as the No. 3 quarterback behind Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb.
After McNabb was traded and Kolb was injured in the season opener in 2010, Vick took over and was outstanding. He had career highs in yards passing (3,018), completion percentage (62.6), touchdowns passing (21), touchdowns rushing (9) and passer rating (100.2).
But he hasn't come close to playing up to that level. There are questions, of course, about his durability and his age — Vick will be 33 in July.
"He's younger than (Dallas quarterback) Tony Romo, and he's right about the same age as (Giants quarterback) Eli Manning," Kelly said. "The only reason I say that is because I told Michael that this morning, and he didn't know."
Vick is undersized and stubborn about playing it safe. He usually takes on tacklers instead of running out of bounds and dives headfirst instead of sliding.
"I looked at the films, and studied the tape. When you look at Michael, it's his toughness. That cannot be overrated at all," Kelly said. "We looked at his skill set. He still has that skill set. He can still throw the football.
"He's got an unbelievable release, and it's our job as coaches to make sure he can get the ball out quickly."
The Eagles scored just 280 points last season as they endured an eight- and a three-game losing streak. Only Arizona (250) scored fewer in the NFC.
When asked whether Vick or Foles would work with the first-team offense in training camp, Kelly smiled and quickly showed he's going to be able to handle the Philadelphia media just fine.
"We'll go alphabetical," he said with a grin. "First name? Last name? We'll flip a coin." -- (AP)
Torn between loyalty to his players and accepting a new challenge, Chip Kelly ultimately chose the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles.
He just needed more time to make the decision.
"The hardest thing for me to do was to leave Oregon," Kelly said Thursday at a news conference introducing him as the 21st coach in team history. "I knew it was a great fit, but it was whether I could leave what I have. I love those guys and it had to be a special place for me to leave."
The Eagles hired Kelly on Wednesday, giving him a five-year contract and ending an exhaustive search to replace Andy Reid. The offensive innovator was lured away from Oregon, where he went 46-7 in four seasons and turned the program into a national powerhouse.
From the start, Kelly appeared to be Philadelphia's top choice. But two days after a nine-hour meeting in Arizona with owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and president Don Smolenski, Kelly chose to stay at Oregon.
The Eagles continued interviewing other candidates, and were close to offering the job to Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on Tuesday night. But Kelly changed his mind after thinking harder about making the move and talking to several people, including Reid who quickly moved on to become Kansas City's coach.
"I knew this was the best spot, but there's so much more to it," Kelly said. "What happens when I leave? Who becomes the next head coach? What happens to those players? You're not making reservations for dinner. You are changing not only your life, but a lot of other people's lives."
Kelly said he became emotional when he told players in a meeting that he was leaving, and added that he cried more than they did.
He went from a warm and fuzzy environment in Eugene, Ore. to a hero's welcome in the city of Brotherly Love.
Fans greeted him at the airport when his plane arrived in Philadelphia on Wednesday night and a sign reading "Our Chip's Come In" was hung on two trees outside the team's practice facility on Thursday morning. A few fans drove down Pattison Avenue honking their horns to salute the hiring.
"It's a really exciting time for me. It was a difficult decision. There's not many opportunities to coach in the National Football League, and every one of them is special," Kelly said. "But this is an iconic franchise with an outstanding owner. I knew what this place was all about, and this is where I wanted to be. It was just a matter of figuring out how to do it the right way."
The Eagles interviewed 11 candidates in slightly more than two weeks. While fans became anxious waiting for a new coach, the team emphasized a patient approach.
Perhaps they were waiting for Kelly to reconsider.
"The key was to find the right leader, not make the fastest decision," Lurie said. "We never took 'No' as a full 'No.' We knew he was torn. And we knew there was no competition for Chip. It was just, did he want to stay or did he want to come to us?"
Though Kelly has no previous NFL experience, the Eagles are banking on him to turn around a franchise that has just 12 wins in the last two years and zero playoff victories since 2008.
"Chip is a trendsetter," Roseman said. "People are following him. He's not a disciple of anyone. When you are trying to find greatness, you have to find the people on top."
Kelly built quite a reputation for being one of the sharpest football minds in college while leading Oregon to four straight BCS bowl games — including a bid for the national championship against Auburn two seasons ago — and three conference championships.
Some aspects of his hurry-up, spread offense are used by New England and Washington. Patriots coach Bill Belichick even brought Kelly in to get advice on his offensive philosophy.
But Kelly has a challenge in Philadelphia. His flash-and-dash offense needs a leader under center. Nick Foles, a third-round pick last year who replaced Michael Vick, is a dropback quarterback who said himself that he doesn't fit Kelly's zone-read style
Vick, who will be 33 when the season starts, isn't coming back for the $16 million he's scheduled to make next year. The Eagles have to make a decision on giving him a roster bonus of $3 million within three days after the Super Bowl.
"I haven't watched even film to make any decision on anybody," Kelly said, adding that he's a "huge fan" of Foles.
Kelly also talked about adapting his system to fit the players on the team, a quality that impressed Roseman in their first interview.
"When you meet with Chip, you realize very quickly that Chip is not about whether his offense is going to translate to the NFL," Roseman said. "It's about his vision for a program, it's about how he sees the entire aspect of a football organization and Jeffrey outlined in that first press conference: I want a leader, I want a presence, and so if you had any doubt about Chip Kelly's offense, you left and said this isn't about Chip Kelly and the spread, this is about how Chip Kelly approaches football, and that was incredibly, incredibly impressive."
The Eagles were 3-1 this season after a 19-17 win over the New York Giants on Sept. 30. They then lost 11 of their last 12 games to finish in last place in the NFC East. Reid was fired the day after the season ended, ending a 14-year tenure in which he won more games than any coach in franchise history and went to the playoffs nine times, including five conference championship games.
But the Eagles are still seeking their first Vince Lombardi Trophy and first NFL title since 1960.
"We have one goal, and that's to get to the Super Bowl," Kelly said. "It's not an 'I' deal, it's a 'we' deal. Our players will understand that." -- (AP)
It should be the marquee NFL game of the week this Sunday night when the Philadelphia Eagles face the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The game will air on NBC-TV Channel 10 (8:20 p.m.)
Both the Eagles and Falcons have Super Bowl aspirations. The Eagles have that “dream team” label. The Falcons were picked by Sports Illustrated as one of the teams to get to the Super Bowl.
In addition, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will be heading back to Atlanta where he started his career. This won’t be his first return trip. He played down there in 2009 during his first year with the Eagles when the team still had quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb. In that game, he scored his first touchdown as an Eagle on a five-yard run. He also threw a five-yard TD pass to tight end Brent Celek.
However, Vick will be heading back this time as the Eagles starting quarterback. Last Sunday, in the team’s 31–13 win over the St. Louis Rams, he started his first season opener since 2006 when he was a member of the Falcons. He completed 14 of 32 passes for 187 yards while throwing two touchdown passes.
Vick is still a popular athlete in Atlanta. In 2001, the Falcons drafted Vick No. 1 out of Virginia Tech making him the first African-American quarterback selected first overall. He spent six years with the Falcons.
Vick guided Atlanta to the 2004 NFC championship game where they lost to the Eagles. He was selected to three Pro Bowls during his time in Atlanta.
In 2007, he went to prison for his involvement with a dogfighting operation. After he was released, the Eagles signed him in 2009. Last year, he emerged as the Eagles starting quarterback. The Associated Press, The Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly named Vick the 2010 Comeback Player of the Year after registering career highs in quarterback rating (100.2), completion percentage (62.6) and passing yards (3,018) en route to his fourth career Pro Bowl berth.
He became just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 3,000 plus yards, rush for 500-plus yards (676), and accrue a 100-plus quarterback rating in a season, joining Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who did so in 1992 for the San Francisco 49ers.
Vick appears to be off to a good start. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, who actually replaced Vick as the franchise signal caller, struggled in his first game. Chicago spanked Atlanta, 30–12 in the season opener. Ryan completed 31-of-47 passes for 319 yards and one interception with no TDs.
Ryan, former Penn Charter and Boston College star, was the third pick overall in the 2008 by the Falcons. In his first two seasons as the team’s starter, he has guided Atlanta to an outstanding 13–1 home record. A year ago, he earned his first Pro Bowl appearance. In 16 starts, he set franchise records with 357 completions on 571 pass attempts. He threw for career-highs with 3,705 yards and 28 touchdowns with a career-best nine interceptions and a 91.0 passer rating.
This could be an early look at a possible NFC championship matchup. Atlanta and Philadelphia are certainly two of the conference’s top teams along with the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. It should be an interesting game. The Falcons don’t want to go down 0–2. So, the Eagles will be tested right away.
Demetress Bell will be a busy man in a few weeks. Bell, Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle, will be in training camp on July 25 at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.
But before training camp begins, the Eagles’ 6-foot-5, 311-pound offensive lineman, will host the Philadelphia Kids Fun Day on Tuesday, July 10 at Northeast High School, Cottman and Algon avenues and will have a variety of events for kids and adults, including autograph and photo opportunities with NFL players.
The event will begin at 2 p.m. with a free football and cheer camp for kids in grades 1–8. At 6 p.m. there will be the “Great Amazing Race with NFL players.” Kids will be paired with adults. The cost of the race is $40. Bell will have a chance to make a difference in the community prior to the start of the season.
“This is a great opportunity for the kids,” Bell said. “I always wanted to give back to the community. I wanted to do something in Philadelphia. This is where I play. It should be a fun day for everybody.”
Bell will be playing a big role in the community next week. He will be playing an important role for the Eagles this season, too. The Eagles signed Bell to a five-year deal in April. He is expected to replace left tackle Jason Peters, who suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon in March.
Bell played left tackle for Buffalo Bills. He was started 30 games for the Bills over the last three seasons. A year ago, he played in seven games where he started six times and Buffalo had a 4-2 record in those matchups. He helped a Bills offense that tallied a season-high in points, rushed for 171 yards and gave up only one sack in a 41-7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. He was a part of the offensive line that didn’t give up a sack for two straight games that culminated in a 34-31 victory over the New England Patriots.
Bell will be blocking for one of the most talented offenses in the NFL, which features quarterback Michael Vick, running back LeSean McCoy, wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and tight Brent Celek. He’s looking forward to working with the Eagles offense.
“I know the players and coaches that I’m working with,” Bell said. “I don’t think I could be in a better situation. The offense is explosive at every position. We got Pro Bowl players at every position. We have a lot of great players across the board.”
The Eagles had a disappointing season a year ago. They expected to have a great year with a long run in the playoffs. But that didn’t happen. The Eagles finished the season with an 8-8 record, winning their last four games. However, there is a great deal of anticipation following a major let down from last year. The Eagles have all their key players under contract. The team is coming off a good mini-camp where all the players appear to be on the same page.
“I think everybody is excited,” Bell said. “Our practices have been really good. I think it’s going to be a good year for everybody. I know everybody wants to get back to playoffs. They want to have a big year. I understand that.”
Bell will be entering his fifth season in the NFL. He has proven to be a solid offensive lineman over the years. He feels each year he has made significant strides in terms of his skills.
“I think I’ve improved over the years,” he said. “Last year, I got injured (shoulder injury). But I’ve been working hard each year. I still feel I can do better. I feel I can do a lot more. I haven’t been playing football that long.”
Bell grew up in Summerfield, La., where he was an All-State and All-America honorable mention basketball player at Summerfield High School. He went to Northwestern State on a basketball scholarship. Before he joined the football team in 2005 as a defensive end, Bell had never played football at all. Despite the lack of experience, he was named to the Associated Press All-American and first team All-Southland Conference. He was also selected first-team All-Louisiana his senior year in 2007.
In 2008, he was a seventh round draft pick of the Bills. As far as playing football, Bell has come a long way in a very short period of time.
“I played power forward in basketball,” he said. I was a product of a basketball family. I was a basketball guy growing up. I’m working hard every day, but I still feel that I have only scratched the surface. I’m still learning more and more each day.”
It looks as if Bell’s best days are in front of him. His days as an Eagle will begin very soon in training camp.
NOTE: Bell’s event is produced in partnership with Flying Colors Sports, a marketing and community relations firm that works with professional athletes. For more information on the event, go to www.GreatAmazingRace.com.
Pro-Bowler Vick, revamped line to face Rams
When the Philadelphia Eagles face the St. Louis Cardinals in the season opener all eyes will be on Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. It’s going to be interesting to see whether or not the team’s revamped offensive line can protect the Eagles Pro Bowl signal caller.
The Eagles offensive line includes Jason Kelce (center), Evans Mathis (left guard), Jason Peters (left tackle), Kyle DeVan (right guard) and Todd Herremans (right tackle). The line hasn’t been together very long to gather any kind of consistency in terms of working as a unit. A year ago, he was sacked 34 times. He also took several big hits during the preseason. Nevertheless, this offensive line will be tested on Sunday at 1 p.m. (Fox TV Channel 29). Vick may have to use his speed and elusiveness in the pocket depending on the protection.
“Well, I’ve got a lot of confidence in Mike,” said Marty Mornhinweg, Eagles offensive coordinator. “I’ve got great confidence that he’ll use all that great athletic ability when he’s forced to use it, otherwise staying with the play and running the offense.
“I do find myself, on occasion, relying on that just a little bit, you know, and taking more calculated risks, I do do that. That could be strength, could be a weakness, for me. I think Mike relies on it, but I’ll tell you what, he’s come so far, as far as playing the quarterback position, that he really is trusting the big offensive line, and the backs and tight ends protection-wise, and he’s done a heck of job, up to date, staying with the play and using that great athletic ability if forced. We can use it in other ways as well.”
Andy Reid, Eagles head coach, has juggled personnel in the offensive line over the years. Reid has really shuffled the deck this season with hopes of providing Vick with some protection.
“Well my first couple years,” Reid said. “Obviously, when I took the job here they were all different, because I didn’t know any of them. After that first year we made some changes, and really every year for the first couple years, three or so years, we made changes, added people, moved them around, did what we do.”
The Eagles just made a huge investment in Vick. They signed him to a reported six-year $100 million contract. The Associated Press, The Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly named Vick the 2010 Comeback Player of the Year after he registered career highs in quarterback rating (100.2), completion percentage (62.6) and passing yards (3,018) en route to his fourth career Pro Bowl berth. He became just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 3,000-plus yards, rush for 500-plus yards (676), and accrue a 100-plus quarterback rating in a season, joining Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, who did so in 1992 for the San Francisco 49ers.
In addition, Vick set the Eagles single-season record among quarterbacks with nine rushing touchdowns while ranking second in team history in completion percentage, quarterback rating and interception percentage (1.6). For his efforts, Vick received of the Bert Bell NFL Player of the Year award from the Maxwell Football Club and garnered NFC Offensive Player of the Year accolades from the Kansas City 101 Awards.
The Eagles have the potential to get to the Super Bowl if all the pieces fall into place. Vick is a big part of that. He’s coming off a great year. Reid has been very impressed with his growth heading into this season.
“I think he’s gotten better this camp,” Reid said. “I think he picked up where he left off and he’s getting better every day. That’s the way it should be with every coach and every player, he should be working to do that.
“The one nice thing about football is there’s no ceiling, so you can continue to work to get yourself better every day there’s some part of your game you can do that with. He came back in phenomenal shape and with a great mindset, and wanted to take it even up another notch from last year, and he’s done that to this point. However, we’ve got to play the games and so on, and then time tells in those situations, but he sure has prepared himself well.”
If you walk around town, everybody has been talking about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and his injuries. Vick has been injured a lot in his career, there’s no question about that. He has started all 16 regular season games just once in his NFL career.
So far, he has hardly been on the field during the preseason. In the first game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he sustained a thumb injury in the first quarter and didn’t play the rest of the game. In the second contest against the New England Patriots, he took a shot to the ribs and had to take an early exit.
If the Eagles plan to make a strong run in the regular season as well as the playoffs, they’re going to need a healthy Michael Vick. The team has to find a way to protect. President Barack Obama told him to slide. He did that the other night going head first for a first down. Sliding will help, but he has to be careful with that as well.
The answer in keeping Vick healthy could be found in the last four games of the 2011 season. In those games, Vick rolled out a lot, which took him away from the pass rush.
This allowed him to see linebackers blitzing at him in the backfield. Vick’s speed and open field moves prevented him from getting hit by those hard charging linebackers and pass rushing defensive ends.
When you have space and vision, you can hold on to the ball longer. You can create opportunities for yourself and extend the play longer. And let’s face it, that’s the way Vick plays the game. You can’t take that away him. In addition, if the play isn’t there, he can throw the ball away or run out of bounds. He’ll be in a better position to do that.
If you’re going to have him stand up in the pocket and take those big hits from defensive linemen coming full speed, that could be a major problem. Vick has to be that explosive player we’ve seen over his 11 years in the NFL. People want to see him play the way he did in 2010 when he was a threat to make a big play at any time.
Vick is only 6-foot and 215 pounds. That’s not real big for a quarterback. A guy that size can’t be strictly a pocket passer. You can give him some room to make plays with his arm as well as his legs. With his talent, you have to put him in position where he has the other teams trying to figure out what he’s going to do. That’s what makes him dangerous.
He doesn’t have to go back to being the quarterback he was during his playing days with the Atlanta Falcons. Actually, he’s a much better all-around quarterback now. His passing is much improved.
It’s unlikely that Vick will play the rest of the preseason. Andy Reid, Eagles head coach, will have some time to look at his four-time Pro Bowl signal caller. Reid should have him dropping back a little further in the pocket. This way, he can see the field better. Also, it would keep Vick in a situation where he’s putting pressure on defenses along with preventing him from getting hurt.
It’s easy to say he’s got to slide and throw the ball way. That’s nice. Everybody wants him to stay healthy. But Michael Vick has made a career of making plays and that’s what he has to do if the Eagles are going to go anywhere this season.