No one in the NFL gets more attention than Michael Vick. Apparently, it's still not enough.
Asked during a postgame news conference whether referees were affording him the same protection other quarterbacks get, Vick answered, "There's no reason for me to go into a big dissertation about why I'm not getting the calls," and proceeded to do just that. To be fair, Vick was still nursing a right hand badly bruised on a roughing-the-passer penalty that went unpunished in a loss to the Giants. Then he was goaded by a half-dozen questions from reporters going over the same ground. Yet he couldn't let even one of those opportunities go to waste.
Vick knew exactly who the villains were, and after opening with a disclaimer — "Not to blame the refs or say that it was their fault" — he blamed the refs for making life in the Eagles' pocket more dangerous than it had to be.
"All of the time. Every time I throw the ball in all my highlights and just watching film in general, every time I throw the ball 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," Vick paused to remind everyone, "I'm not going to complain about it. I'm just making everybody aware and hopefully somebody will take notice."
Consider it duly noted, Mike. But instead of calling out the league office and its officiating crews, you might want to talk to coach Andy Reid and your offensive line.
Quarterbacking is a hazardous job, but the numbers show that since he became the starter early in the 2010 season, Vick and the Eagles have been getting their fair share of roughing-the-passer calls. Only six teams in the league have been awarded more than the five called against Philly's opponents during that span, and none is an NFC rival. A more telling stat shows Vick has been pressured or hit in the pocket more than any QB in the league, nearly a third of the time, and along with Minnesota's creaky Donovan McNabb and Chicago's Jay Cutler, he's in danger of becoming a tackling dummy.
Because of the way he plays, Vick gets hit outside the pocket more than just about any other quarterback, too. Durability was never going to be his strong suit, not as long as he remains as much of a threat to run as he is to throw. The Eagles should have figured that out when they signed Vick three weeks into the 2009 season, or after they made him No.1 a year later, but certainly by the time they decided to hand him a $100-million deal ($40 million guaranteed) during the offseason and shipped backup Kevin Kolb to Arizona. Vick's return to the top of the game was such a feel-good story that Reid and the rest of Philly forgot to take a good look at what he'd actually accomplished in that brief audition for the starring role.
The Eagles went 4-5 over that stretch and didn't get much better across the 'O' line; they're a fast-fading 1-2 now. Small wonder everybody in the organization is looking for someone else to blame.
"His best interest is always in my mind, when he's on the football field in particular," Reid said, ducking the question of whether the Eagles would complain to the league. "I know he's a marked man. I think it's important that we all keep a close eye on him."
That hasn't been a problem this season. Between last week's concussion and Sunday's smashed hand — not Vick's throwing hand — he has spent plenty of time just up the Eagles' sideline from his coach. That shouldn't be much of a surprise. In eight previous seasons, Vick has managed to start all 16 games only once, and depending on how bad this latest injury is, he could miss another handful. Reid said it was too early to know if Vick would recover enough use of the hand to play against the 49ers next week. Ditto for whether Mike Kafka or Vince Young would get the start if Vick can't go.
"He always wants to play. That's how he is," Reid said, referring to Vick. "He's a competitive guy."
Competitive enough, anyway, that Vick wants the same protection given Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and other elite QBs — even though none puts himself in harm's way as often or as willingly as he does. Vick should know by now, and the Eagles should, too, that he can't have it both ways.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Jim Litke.