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Eagles say Michael Vick will play in Sept. 9 opener

By Jeff McLane, The Philadelphia Inquirer –

Changed quarterback or not, Michael Vick will be ready to play in the Eagles’ season opener on Sept. 9.

Andy Reid confirmed Wednesday that Vick’s bruised ribs will not sideline him for very long. But rather than risk further injury to his starter, the Eagles’ coach will likely sit Vick for the final two preseason games, “unless I’m drastically changing something,” Reid said.

Rookie Nick Foles, who took all the first-team practice snaps Wednesday, is slated to start Friday at Cleveland. Reid said that his starters would play approximately a quarter and that Foles could play as much as a half before Trent Edwards takes over.

The Eagles open the season 16 days from Friday with another game in Cleveland. Their quarterback situation is not as settled as Reid would like.

Vick has taken only 12 snaps in two preseason games and left both with injuries. (He bruised his thumb in the first.) In a small sample of plays — he completed only 4 of 7 passes for 11 yards — Vick did not look sharp, nor did he appear to have gotten the memo about doing a better job in protecting himself.

Vick has not spoken to the media since he was hurt Monday night against the Patriots, and a team spokesman said that he was not available Wednesday. Reid said that he would prefer that Vick had more time under center, but that he was not concerned about the lack of playing time.

“The thing you have to bank on is the experience,” Reid said.

The same may hold true for Mike Kafka, although he has significantly less experience. Kafka suffered a broken left hand against the Steelers on Aug. 9 and did not play against the Patriots, nor will he play Friday.

Kafka entered training camp as the No. 2 quarterback. He’s still listed as the backup on the depth chart, but his injury has clouded his future. Reid said there’s a chance he will return to play in the preseason finale against the New York Jets next Thursday.

But even a herculean performance may not be enough to win back Kafka’s job or even a roster spot.

Without getting caught up in the mania that is sweeping a certain segment of the Birds’ fan base, Foles has looked impressive. It would be easy to dismiss outings against mostly second- and third-team defenses in meaningless games, but Foles has attempted only 16 fewer NFL passes than Kafka.

He will face a stiffer test Friday. The Browns are expected to play their starters for the first half.

“I know the game is going to be fast, so I’m just going to have to play fast,” Foles said.

The backup quarterback is often the most popular player in town. But in Philadelphia, perhaps more than anywhere else, the position has become the most dissected. Vick’s history of injuries has perplexed the team’s fans. He has missed three games in each of the last two seasons with rib injuries. He took another blow to the ribs Monday.

The last two rib injuries have come when he was in the pocket, just after he released the football.

“The ones come when he’s exposed and he’s throwing the ball,” Reid said. “That’s the common denominator there. He’s no more susceptible to them there than … any other quarterback that’s in the throwing position when he gets hit.”

But could he have avoided making those throws under duress? Before he was hit Monday, Vick spun away from a pass-rusher who had beaten guard Evan Mathis inside. When he turned, Patriots linebacker Jermaine Cunningham was waiting and decked him.

“He was trying to make somebody miss, and he wheeled backwards about 15 yards,” Reid said. “He had an available receiver down the field, and he was trying to make a play. To tell him that he can’t make that throw, you’re not going to tell him that.”

Vick has made a living out of making would-be tacklers miss. Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have said that they don’t want to take away Vick’s mobility. But they have tried to make him more of a pocket passer.

Reid was asked if Vick — who tends to hold onto the ball a beat longer than most quarterbacks — was more prone to injury now that he is more often in the pocket.

“It’s a catch-22, because you’re asking me on one side, should he have gotten rid of the ball and was he being Michael Vick?” Reid said. “Well, he was being Michael Vick and he was moving around and doing the things that have made him very successful. So, I don’t see any hesitation or fear.”

Vick did run outside the pocket a series earlier. He scrambled 5 yards for a first down. He did not take on a defender, but rather dived to the ground. Reid called it a slide, but Vick went in headfirst.

“It’s a good start,” Reid said.

We’ll see if he has made any more progress in 17 days.

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