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Losing Vick is the least of the Eagles' problems

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

The Eagles' passing game takes a big hit with Jeremy Maclin being sidelined with an injury. (Getty Images)  
The Eagles' passing game takes a big hit with Jeremy Maclin being sidelined with an injury. (Getty Images)  

PHILADELPHIA -- On second thought, maybe you don't want to be like Mike.

One week it's a concussion that sends Michael Vick to the sidelines. Now it's a broken right hand, only this time the Philadelphia quarterback could be out indefinitely. The extent of the injury won't be known until Vick undergoes a CT scan Monday, though it was severe enough to keep him from finishing a game for the second straight week.

"It doesn't look like it's displaced," coach Andy Reid said after Sunday's 29-16 loss to the New York Giants.

Nevertheless, it does look like it's a problem.

Vick, hurt when hit by the Giants' Chris Canty after throwing a third-quarter pass, had the hand heavily wrapped and kept it out of view during his postgame news conference. He said it was swollen and sore, so swollen that he couldn't take snaps, and he conceded that he was unsure if he could suit up for next weekend's game vs. San Francisco.

But next week's game is not the issue. The future of Vick and the Eagles is.

When the Eagles dealt away backup Kevin Kolb this summer, they knew they were assuming a risk because Vick's wide-open style of play makes him vulnerable to injuries. They never, however, could have imagined this.

Each week, it seems, Vick is picking himself up from another hard hit, and, frankly, he's getting tired of it. More than that, he's ticked, and here's why: Vick and his teammates think he's absorbing too much punishment, and their beef is not with the offensive line, the play-calling or defenders.

Nope, it's with the officiating, and they point to his latest setback as an example.

"It's pretty much been the story for the last three weeks," Vick said. "I mean, obviously, at some point, something catastrophic is going to happen, and I broke my hand.

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"Not to blame the refs or say that it was their fault. It's just one of those unfortunate situations, and I think more precautions should be taken when I'm inside the pocket.

"I mean, you look at all the replays. I'm on the ground every time. It's unfortunate for myself and unfortunate for my team, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frustrated right now because of that."

He should be. So should the Eagles. The NFL's "Dream Team" is living a nightmare, losing two of its first three starts, and, more significantly, losing its star quarterback again.

"Everybody saw the game," said Vick. "I was on the ground constantly ... all the time. Every time I throw the ball in all my highlights ... I'm on the ground, getting hit in the head, and I don't know why. I don't get the 15-yard flags like everybody else does, but, hey, I'm not going to complain about it. I'm just making everybody away, and, hopefully, somebody will take notice."

If Vick is sidelined, the Eagles' next move is to Mike Kafka or Vince Young, with Kafka the logical choice. He replaced Vick the past two games, and, though Young suited up Sunday for the first time this season, he still isn't completely healed from a hamstring injury that dates back to the preseason.

I don't question that the Eagles can win with Kafka or Young. They won with Jeff Garcia, Koy Detmer and A.J. Feeley when Donovan McNabb was sidelined, and they won with Kolb when Vick was out. What I do question is how they win with Vick constantly getting whacked, an offensive line that has holes and a defense that can't protect fourth-quarter leads and can't stop ... Victor Cruz.

"Obviously," said a tight-lipped Reid, "we didn't have enough big plays offensively, and they hit too many on us defensively. We have to go back around and make sure that we evaluate every situation and get better as a football team."

I've heard that before, but I've never seen Reid as angry as he was afterward. His postgame comments were terse, and he ended the tense session after only a handful of minutes.

"He was pretty hard [on us]," said cornerback Nnamdi Asmough. "He's upset."

He should be. He just lost his second straight game. He just lost his star quarterback, and two wide receivers (Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper) bowed out with injuries that could sideline them indefinitely. His defense couldn't make crucial second-half stops again, and, oh, yeah, his offensive line committed four false-start penalties in the first half and couldn't open holes on three cracks from the Giants' 1 in the third period and another fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter.

Each time, someone -- Vick, LeSean McCoy, fullback Owen Schmitt, someone -- was stopped short.

"That's just tough luck, you know?" said Schmitt.

Maybe. But the Eagles have more than just "tough luck" to think about now, starting with Vick's future. He will overcome this injury. We all know that. What we don't know is how the Eagles march on if Vick continues to serve as a piñata.

The guy is right: He's on his back too much. Part of that has to do with the pass protection, and most of it has to do with how he plays. He holds the ball until receivers separate, with onrushing linemen delivering blows to his unprotected body, and he is one of the game's best and most active open-field runners.

But how long can he ... and the Eagles ... last like that?

"I think everybody is kinda worried about it," said wide receiver DeSean Jackson. "He is a dual threat with how he can throw and run the ball. We just have to be able to keep him healthy. Some things are unfortunate, and some things just happen. He's our guy; our franchise quarterback."

And, for the moment, he's down. Again. Only this time it was after the Eagles made a conscious effort to protect Vick, running the ball more than usual and sometimes keeping a back and tight end in the backfield to protect him when he did throw.

Nevertheless, the late hit happened, and forget about how NFL officials deal with it. How will the Eagles?

"I am conscious of my safety," said Vick, "and I want to play this game and protect myself at all times, even though sometimes I can't. I trust in my offensive linemen, and I want to stay healthy for my team. I guess I've got to do more. It's something I'm not doing right, maybe. I've just got to keep pressing."

Good luck.


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