Michael Vick Carrying Football Everywhere to Avoid Fumbling

Michael Vick walked down a corridor at the Eagles‘ training facility after Wednesday’s practice clutching a ball in his arm. He carried the ball earlier in the day and later in the day. He took it to breakfast, to team meetings and to lunch.

One week after Vick lost two fumbles against the Pittsburgh Steelers and amid a season in which he has fumbled eight times, the quarterback is trying to get a grip on his problem entering Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions by literally gripping his problem. Vick said he wants to feel the pigskin, keeping the ball high and tight within his grasp.

“Everyone thought it was funny, but I didn’t,” Vick said. “That’s how much I care about this team. That’s how much I care about our success.”

Vick’s teammates even attempted to strip the ball from him – an exercise that might have been useful for them, too, considering the Eagles’ struggles to force turnovers. Vick eventually stopped carrying the ball everywhere toward the end of the week because “the stakes got pretty high.”

“There was a bounty on the ball,” Vick said, drawing laughter.

Defensive ends Darryl Tapp and Trent Cole said they never tried to take the ball. Had Tapp known what Vick was doing, he joked that he would have tackled Vick in the hallway to try to get the ball out.

“There’s definitely a sense of urgency around here,” Tapp said.

One player who left Vick alone was Brent Celek. The Eagles’ veteran tight end wants to stay on his quarterback’s good side.

“I didn’t mess with it, I wasn’t trying to hit it out,” Celek said. “I want him to throw me the ball.”

Andy Reid was less forthcoming about any strategies to work on Vick’s fumbling problem after Reid said Monday that it would be emphasized during practice this week. Reid only said Vick “hung onto the football” during practice and said Vick “must make a conscious effort of keeping it high and tight. Make sure he covers it in traffic.”

Vick even sought tips from the running backs about carrying the football. Whenever he watched football this week, he paid attention specifically to how the ball was held. Vick noticed a consistency: “Everybody has it high and tight,” he said. And that wasn’t limited to only running backs, taking that potential excuse away from Vick.

“Even quarterbacks that I’ve watched,” Vick said. “It’s something that I definitely need to do. There’s a comfort level that I’ve been able to develop when holding the football.”

One thing that won’t change on Sunday is the protective equipment that Vick wears. Both he and Reid explored whether the gear Vick wears to protect his ribs inhibits his ability to hold the ball close to his body, but Vick said it had no affect and plans to wear the same flak jacket.

“I went back and looked at all of the film with the turnovers that I had and what I could have been able to do to correct it, and they are all things to do to prevent it,” Vick said. “They are all things that could be corrected and it’s all self-inflicted. I just have to trust in what we’re doing.”

Vick said Wednesday that there was little that could be done during the week to solve the problem, and that all that matters is what he does Sunday. He said Friday that he must ensure that he doesn’t go into the game worrying about what could happen and instead focus on controlling what actually happens.

“I always talk about being in the moment and being able to do the right things when you’re out there playing,” Vick said. “You got to stay conscious and keep it in the back of your mind as far as what you have to do when you’re holding the football. I do it in the passing game because I can see downfield, so I’ve been able to take care of that. But sometimes running with the football you have guys coming from everywhere. We get paid to protect the football.”

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