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Ron Mexico aka Mike Vick

Plum Diamonds Lab Grown Diamond Rings


Never Forget 31-0


Vick, just 26, already can hear clock ticking

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

William C . Rhoden

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</IMG> </TD></TR><TR><TD class=credit width=200>JOHN BAZEMORE ASSOCIATED PRESS </TD></TR><TR><TD class=cutline width=200>Quarterback Michael Vick admits to feeling a sense of urgency entering his sixth season with the Falcons. </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

During a recent conversation at his team’s training facility, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick made a surprising revelation. Surprising because he’s so young.
Vick, 26, hinted that he is beginning to hear his NFL biological clock ticking. He was discussing the disappointment of last season, when the Falcons went 8-8 and missed the playoffs, and high expectations of the upcoming season.
Vick conceded that he was beginning to feel a sense of urgency.
"I still feel young, in a sense," Vick said. "But this is my sixth season, fourth season starting. I feel like it’s time for me to take this team where it needs to go, at least to the playoffs, and we’ll go from there."
Athletes have a competitive clock that ticks louder with each season without a championship. A player such as Vick enters the league as the hot prospect. One or two uneventful seasons go by, a disappointment at the moment of truth (2004 — a loss to Philadelphia in the NFC championship game) and before you know it you are yesterday’s news.
Professional athletes survey their careers, weigh what they have accomplished against what they have not, measure goals against the reality of ever achieving them. Vick is in the process of taking inventory.
"Thinking about me being a veteran, in my sixth season, time is winding down," he said. "Even though I’m young — that’s the way I feel. That’s what makes me so hungry right now.
"It’s six seasons, then seven, eight, next thing you know it’s 10 years, then 12 years. Then next thing you know, you’re gone."
Vick is thinking long and hard about his career, measuring expectations and demands against his ability to meet them. He’s beginning to think of football and sports mortality in a way that he probably never has.
"I’m going to enjoy every second from here on out until my career is over," he said. "Different approach this season."
Vick became a star in college as a freshman. When he entered the NFL after his second season at Virginia Tech, many in the media heralded him as the next new thing in the NFL: a quarterback who would escalate a rapidly evolving position. He was the NFL’s Michael Jordan.
In most ways, Vick has not disappointed: He is faster than anyone at his position, has a cannon for an arm and is capable of breathtaking runs. He has not led Atlanta to the Super Bowl and he has been injured, and injured again (he missed practice last week with a pulled hamstring). Each injury prompts criticism of his penchant for running and pointed suggestions that Vick had better learn to be a better pocket passer or his NFL tenure might not last much longer.
Vick suddenly may be feeling old. Sports can do that. An athlete becomes obsolete. The star experts predict will change the course of professional football becomes a third-down back or is declared a bust.
Vick was the defining model in 2000. Vince Young may be the new and improved model. Vick is 6 feet tall. Young is nearly 6-5 and is in the same general class as Vick in terms of speed.
Vick, though, is a more mature speedy quarterback, one with a sense of time ticking away. Asked about the best piece of advice he could offer Young, Vick said, without hesitation, "Don’t rely on your legs in this game.
"You set yourself up by using your arm. You’ve got to be able to throw the football in this league. If you can’t throw the football, you might as well be out there running the option or playing another position, because you got to be able to throw.
"If you can throw, then they’re going to respect you. … But learn the offense first, learn to throw the football and spread the ball out among the guys who are going to get open. That’s going to create opportunity for you with your legs. Don’t rely on your legs, because that’s not going to do it for you."
Vick is feeling the pressure to win. Last week, he faced tough questions from reporters after revealing that he did not give his full effort in the final game last season, a 44-11 loss to Carolina after the Falcons had been eliminated from playoff contention a week earlier. "It will never happen again," Vick said. Receivers hear footsteps. NFL quarterbacks hear their biological clocks. Vick is beginning to hear his.
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Never Forget 31-0


Critics have Vick up in arms
QB's not ready to abandon his running ways yet


<!--ARTICLE BODY TEXT-->FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - Every now and then, the criticism gets to Michael Vick.
Last year, after resembling a traditional quarterback in a win at Miami, Vick told all the cynics to quit harping on his unusual style and acknowledge that he could be effective as a dropback passer when he really put his mind to it.
But as the Atlanta Falcons fell apart down the stretch, the Vick-isn't-a-real-quarterback lobby got louder. From national broadcasters to ordinary fans, he's still viewed by many as nothing more than a running back who also takes snaps.
Vick doesn't listen to critics who say a quarterback should hone his passing skills and leave the running to others.
"Guys put up (passing) numbers every year - big numbers - and don't win a ring, so it doesn't mean anything," he said.
But Vick ranked 25th in passing efficiency last season, sandwiched between two players who rarely are mentioned in the same breath: Josh McCown and Brooks Bollinger. A stat that's much easier to understand didn't go in Vick's favor, either - the Falcons lost six of their last eight games and missed the playoffs, one year after reaching the NFC championship game.
"If I have the passing yards or rushing yards and we don't accomplish the common goal at the end of the season, it doesn't mean nothing," Vick said. "I'm not trying to prove anything to anybody anymore because regardless of what I do, people are going to say what they want to say. You can't please everybody. I can only please myself, my teammates, and the coaches. That's my goal."
There are plenty of things on which Vick can improve. His grasp of the West Coast offense - a scheme based on timing and shorter passing routes - is a work in progress even though this will be his third season running it.
He also clearly plays favorites when dropping back to pass, usually looking toward Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler and receiver Brian Finneran. Those two combined for 115 receptions last season, nearly half Atlanta's total. But that will change this year; Finneran went down with a season-ending knee injury early in camp, and the 262-pound Crumpler isn't the sort of receiver that keeps a secondary on its heels.
"Mike will cut it loose quicker with Alge than another receiver ... until he gets more comfortable with them, which is only natural if you're a quarterback," offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said.
Vick spent most of the offseason working with his two young starting receivers, who didn't make much of an impact in 2005: Michael Jenkins, a first-round pick two years ago, and Roddy White, last year's top pick. White has shown a willingness to make the tough catches, and the 6-foot-4 Jenkins has the size to become an inviting target.
"Every now and then, it's tough for me to see over the line," Vick, generously listed at 6 feet, admitted. "But I create passing lines for myself. I work the pocket pretty well and I see things before they happen. I understand coverages, and I know where guys are going to be, so I really don't need the height. I just need my vision."
Vick has the sixth-best winning percentage among active NFL quarterbacks, so he's doing something right. He's guided the Falcons to victory in nearly 62 percent of his starts.
No. 7's impact is apparent to those at the Georgia Dome on Sundays. The Falcons rarely played in front of full houses before Vick arrived; now, they routinely sell out.
"He can't be compared to other quarterbacks the same way," teammate Patrick Kerney said. "A lot of people say he uses his feet too much. But he uses his feet to make as much of a difference as most quarterbacks make with their arms."
Still, it's clear that Vick must take his passing game to another level if he wants to keep winning in the NFL. His running skills will gradually erode as his body absorbs more of a pounding, forcing him to become more of a dropback passer.
That sort of transition already happened for players such as Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper. But the Falcons are in no rush to lead Vick in that direction yet.
"I don't know who is overrated and who is underrated," coach Jim Mora said. "All I know is that whatever list Mike Vick is on, I am glad that it says 'Mike Vick, Atlanta Falcons.' "
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