Michael Vick taking the lead on being Eagles team leader

Dec 2 2010 - 7:28pm

PHILADELPHIA -- On a day when DeSean Jackson again pressed the mute button and most of the Eagles disappeared from the locker room before the media were allowed in, Michael Vick again blamed himself for Sunday's loss to the Bears.

"We had that game in the palm of my hands," he said at one point, adding moments later, "I committed a turnover that was the turning point of the game."

Vick also threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns, again took some vicious hits, and rallied the Eagles from an 18-point hole to make the game interesting until the end. But he was correct in saying that the end-zone interception turned the game upside down.

The odd thing was hearing him blame himself so forcefully, so without qualifiers.

After more than a decade of not hearing much of that from this position.

This is bound to incite again those who see a Donovan McNabb slight in any comparison, to reignite all those Charlie Brown-like charges of being unjustly picked on. So for the record, once again: McNabb was one of the best NFL quarterbacks for most of his career here. And in a more run-oriented offense that relied less on his accuracy and autonomy, he might have even won a championship.

But his admissions of culpability -- when there even were admissions -- were so muted, diluted and deflective that they had to annoy teammates as much as they did those seeking answers.

You know them by heart: It wasn't just his fault, it was everybody's fault. Everybody has to get on the same page.

That was him at his best.

At his less than best, he might have mentioned something about not enough weapons, about plays called, about running the ball more, refocusing for next week, about execution, about everybody doing his part, and things of that nature.

And/or he might have implied that he was being held to an unrealistic and unfair standard, as if culpability and credibility meant the same thing.

Vick still has much to prove to us, not the least of which is whether his apparent improved citizenship is a fleeting or lasting characteristic. But give him credit for Monday, and for the way he has conducted his brief but productive stint as the Eagles quarterback. Coming off that tough loss and a late flight, with even part-time players hiding out Monday, it would have been a perfect opportunity for him to play the quarterback card and be unavailable for comment.

Especially after coach Andy Reid reportedly tore into the team after Sunday's loss, especially after the terse and well-reported conversation Vick had with the mercurial Jackson, who was held to two catches, one for 21 yards, the other for five.

Instead, Vick stood in front of a big, white message board and answered questions for seven minutes, 15 seconds, owning the loss a few times for those who came in late.

The day was dominated with talk of Jackson, of course, especially after he again refused to speak with the media, disappearing quickly once the locker room was opened. He has faced double teams repeatedly this season, and his stats are way down, and it might be affecting his focus and performance. Jackson dropped a potential touchdown pass in each of the two games preceding Sunday's game, and at least one report had Reid singling him out during an uncharacteristic team tongue-lashing following Sunday's messy 31-26 loss.

Asked about it on his weekly Monday night show on WIP, Reid was in full defuse mode, telling Howard Eskin at one point, "You're reading into things."

Reid went on to say: "He's a phenomenal player, and defensive coordinators pay attention to him. If they're going to double him, it's going to give Jeremy (Maclin) a chance to make plays. It's going to give Brent Celek a chance to make plays."

All of that hinges on Vick making plays. He didn't do enough of that Sunday, he said, which played a part in the two men's, um, discussion after the loss.

As for Jackson? Vick said: "He took the loss very tough. Obviously, there were things he wanted to do better. But like I told him, there are things I wish I could have done better. So you can't get down on yourself."

Vick said the gist of Jackson's words to him were about "things ... that we needed to correct," that the wide receiver was "my righthand man." The quarterback's tone, as was the case Sunday, was not adversarial, but rather empathetic. It's a subtle part of the job, playing shrink sometimes.

"He understands that it's not going to be a picnic," Vick said of Jackson at one point.

If he didn't before, those words should send a message.

So should this: "Sometimes things are going to happen, and you just have to bounce back from (them). It was just me giving him a boost. And trying to get refocused."

It's his team. If that wasn't already clear, it is now. Vick is shouldering the position, extending himself in ways that have nothing to do with playcalling or execution. He takes blame. He puts out fires.

The best ones do it all the time. And it never ceases to impress.

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