FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Michael Vick walked into the New York Jets’ locker room as a starting quarterback for the first time in just over a year.
So, as a couple dozen reporters gathered around him, Vick was well aware of the magnitude of the moment.
”When you have a chance to go out and show and prove, I think you’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity,” Vick said after practice Wednesday. ”They don’t come around too often as I’ve seen for the last year and a half not being the starter.
”So just having this chance to become a starter again is almost like a dream come true.”
It has been a nightmarish season for the Jets, who have lost seven straight en route to a 1-7 start, and former starter Geno Smith, whose future with the franchise is uncertain.
But for Vick, who signed with the Jets in March to provide competition for Smith and serve as a mentor, the game Sunday at Kansas City marks yet another chance for a quarterback who last started on Oct. 27, 2013, for Philadelphia.
”It’s just something that I want to take full advantage of and go out and have fun with my teammates and try to get a win,” he said. ”And that’s the challenge. It’s going to be tough on the road in Kansas City. But, what else would you want? You wouldn’t want it any other way.”
He missed 2 1/2 games last season with a hamstring injury but returned to play against the Giants and clearly wasn’t healthy. Vick was removed in the second quarter of that game for rookie Matt Barkley, and never threw another pass as Nick Foles seized the starting job and made Vick expendable.
Vick chose to come to the Jets, where he was reunited with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, the man who helped revive his career with the Eagles in 2009 after the quarterback served a nearly two-year prison sentence for his role in a dogfighting ring.
Philadelphia’s coach then was Andy Reid, who just so happens to be leading the Chiefs these days. Vick started against Reid’s Chiefs last season, going 13 of 30 for 201 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a 26-16 loss. He also lost a fumble, so the fact he’s facing his former coach plays in Reid’s favor, in his opinion.
”If there is anybody who knows me, it’s him,” Vick said.
The 34-year-old quarterback has been patient while with the Jets, mostly saying all of the right things about Smith since he signed with New York, even if his competitive desire burned as he stood on the sideline as the team struggled.
”I mean, it’s tough when you’re the backup and you want to get out there and try to help, but you never know if you are going to get out there and make a difference until you’re out there,” Vick said. ”So, it’s easy to say from the sideline, and it’s harder when you’re out there actually playing. So, I think being a competitor I wanted to be out here. I wanted to help in some way, but now I have an opportunity to try to make a difference and hopefully I can and my teammates will follow.”
Vick took all of the snaps with the starting offense Wednesday, and it will likely be the case all week as he tries to develop a rapport with receivers such as Eric Decker, Percy Harvin and Jeremy Kerley.
”Sometimes you are putting some new plays in and things like that,” coach Rex Ryan said. ”Sometimes the timing is not perfect, by any stretch, but I think he looked pretty good.”
He provided a spark to the offense when he first came in against the Bills, leading the Jets to a touchdown. But he also lost two fumbles and threw an interception. Vick did show that he can still make plays with his legs, running for a game-high 69 yards on eight carries.
”He’s still Michael Vick,” right guard Willie Colon said. ”He’s a threat, not only with his arm, but with his feet. That kind of puts defenses on their heels at times and just gives us another edge.”
Vick and Ryan have talked this week about protecting the football, something the Jets have struggled with. Ryan said the turnovers Vick had last week are a ”concern,” but the quarterback is focusing on making it a non-issue.
”No quarterback in this league is perfect and I think we all know that,” Vick said. ”But to fumble the ball twice, I think that’s something that I’ve got to take care of and just got to protect the ball. Last week, I got greedy.
”I was trying to play like a 24-year-old Mike Vick and I can understand I’ve got to play that way, but you’ve got to play with some type of control.”
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