Eagles fans can be forgiven if they read the upcoming Michael Vick profile in GQ and start to fret.
The story and the photos portray a man getting his groove back. And as we all know, it's up for debate whether Vick needed it in the first place. Wasn't the reserved Eagles quarterback a lot better than the Falcons signal-caller who once flipped off a hometown fan? Consider this passage by writer Will Leitch:
"Suffice it to say, Michael Vick no longer looks sorry. That Vick swagger, the charisma that once made the famously individual-averse NFL promote him as if he were Michael Jordan (remember 'The Michael Vick Experience' commercials?) -- that Vick is back. It's this version of Vick that I encounter during a three hour photo shoot ... I'd been so used to Vick looking forlorn during public appearances over the past three years that I didn't anticipate how bold he'd be in person. Many athletes are reluctant to take their shirts off for photographers, which has always struck me as odd. (If I looked like an athlete, I'd take my shirt off to go to the gas station.) But Vick is shirtless before the photographer even asks."
And that's not all. Vick even suggests he would have turned things around in Atlanta had he spent more time under coach Bobby Petrino.
"I have always been an outstanding football player," Vick tells GQ. "I have always had uncanny abilities, great arm strength, an immense ability to play the game from a quarterback standpoint."
Whenever an athlete (or anyone else) describes his own abilities as "uncanny," you know he's, well, LeBronning. The only thing missing here is a mention of Vick taking his talents to Broad Street. But as the saying goes, there are only two kinds of people: those who are humble and those who are about to be humble. Now that Vick has been humble, is he once again on his way toward being humbled again?
It must be somewhat hard for Vick to be humble, considering he's a step faster than everyone else on the field without even trying. Many pundits said he could never return to his old form, but instead he made defenders look five years older. His performance on Monday Night Football in November, accounting for five first-half touchdowns, was beyond belief -- even to Vick himself. "I was a little out of my mind there," Vick tells Leitch. But still he carried himself fairly quietly. After winning a tough road game in Detroit, Eagles teammates serenaded him in the locker room with a bevy of "Good job, Mike!" chants. Vick smiled and dressed as he listened, hardly basking in the praise.
But now, instead of treading as if on thin ice, Vick is skating. And that could go both ways. Either the confidence every quarterback needs will combine with the system every quarterback wants and the talent every quarterback craves to create a Hall of Famer, or pride will goeth before yet another fall. And we know the second fall could be harder than the first, as the "fool me once" crowd will be merciless -- especially in Philly.
Vick has faced a lot -- more than just about anyone in the NFL. He's been the ultimate hero and the ultimate goat. But what he hasn't truly experienced is the pressure carried by Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and even Donovan McNabb. The Falcons were never really expected to win the Super Bowl. Last season, Vick was not expected to be a star. But now the Eagles seem to have everything in place. Every fan in Philly -- and nationwide -- will be expecting Vick to do two things in every single game: Awe and Win. And those two things are often opposites in the NFL, where "managing the game" can be just as effective as it is boring.
Every decision Vick makes this season, on the field and off, will count more than ever. His rehabilitation has been inspiring, and it will always be one of the most memorable storylines in recent NFL history.
But the expectations heaped on the Eagles quarterback is a strong sign that the comeback of Michael Vick is now yesterday's news.