Michael Vick stood on a podium in a cramped and musty room in the bowels of the stadium where the Atlanta Falcons had just embarrassed the Carolina Panthers. Vick was answering easy-bake questions from the media, soft and fluffy. Then some more. Then some more.
Eventually Vick figured the question quota had been reached. To his right was one of the team's PR assistants, closely monitoring the scene. After another query, another cheese doodle, Vick made a sly but quick gesture, a rapid movement with his eyes, to the assistant. The message was clear. Question and answer session needed to end. Now.
|Michael Vick is trying to keep the off-field distractions to a minimum. (Getty Images)|
"One more question," shouted the PR man in response.
One more came, Vick answered it, and then Vick skipped off the podium.
That is the portrait of a man in control. Maybe it has always been that way with Vick and the media or maybe it is true what people in the league and close to Vick are saying. That Vick is taking extensive steps to better control what happens in his off-the-field life and that better personal decision making is already reaping great benefits on the field and in the film room.
It is difficult to decipher fact from fantasy when it comes to Vick because so few people who truly know him speak publicly about him. But several people nevertheless claim Vick has only recently started to keep some of his more troubled friends at more of a distance than in past years and is far more careful in choices involving his own personal life.
It's early and a National Football League season changes as fast as Vick runs the 40-yard dash. But there is clearly something different about Vick this year and it might be more complicated than the fact Atlanta coaches are allowing Vick to be Vick.
Maybe Vick is growing up. Oh, there are probably still diva tendencies inside him like all athlete superstars possess (as his audible to the PR assistant demonstrated) and bad boy manifestations that all young men undergo. There is also, however, an aging and maturing with Vick that could be happening right before our eyes.
Against Carolina, Vick was so good he shocked some of the Panthers players. They did not seem to recognize this version of Vick from past years.
"Honestly, I think that his game was more balanced," said Carolina defensive tackle Kris Jenkins. "He's matured some and he was more focused as far as what he needed to do to lead that team. It was all well balanced. When we began stopping the run, he made a play using his athleticism to keep drives going. At times he would stay in the pocket and take hits and throw the ball, and I just think he's learned to balance his game a little bit more. That is something that comes with age."
When your personal life is talked about as much as your physical exploits, there is bound to be a significant drain somewhere. Now, people are mostly talking football when speaking of Vick, not discussing this controversy or this friend of his who is in the pokey.
"I get scrutinized each and every day; everything I do," Vick said this week. "I don't know where it all came from, what started it or what I have done wrong along the way. But it's evident that something's wrong and I don't know if it's with me, but if it is me, I need to correct it."