- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 27, 2009

PHILADELPHIA | The Eagles are ready to let loose their wildcat.

Prodigal player Michael Vick is set to make his Philadelphia debut Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field.

A little more than a month after his release from federal custody, the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback will make his first appearance for the Eagles on the same field on which he played his last game Dec. 31, 2006.

“You can expect some excitement,” Philadelphia center Jamaal Jackson said. “He’s lightning in a bottle. You never know what you’re going to get. He can throw the ball… and he can tuck it and run. Our offensive coordinator, Marty [Mornhinweg], and coach [Andy] Reid have come up with some plays for him, some nice little packages. We just have to get him reacclimated.”

Vick served 18 months of a 23-month sentence in prison and two months on home confinement for his role in the financing and operation of the “Bad Newz Kennels” dogfighting ring, and the Eagles’ organization has endured a torrent of criticism from seemingly all quarters after signing him to a one-year, $1.6 million deal with an option for second season.

Given that level of scrutiny, it’s doubtful the Eagles will employ Vick merely as a backup to Donovan McNabb. While giving away little of the scheme he is expected to unveil against the Jaguars, Reid confirmed his intention to use Vick in a variety of wildcat-type alignments by saying Vick would share first-team snaps (and possibly even the backfield) with McNabb, while true backup Kevin Kolb will play the entire fourth quarter with the second-teamers and other roster hopefuls.

“I’m just going to take it play by play and see how he adjusts to game speed,” Reid said. “If I think that’s a problem, I’ll probably discontinue the reps. If I feel he’s adjusting OK, I’ll continue to give him an opportunity here and there.”

In spite of the layoff, the 29-year-old Vick has impressed teammates and coaches with both the relative sharpness of his skills and his work ethic since he joined the club.

“I think he’s doing a good job. He’s working at it,” Reid said. “I think he’s heading in the right direction. I think it’s good that he’s able to be around the team. We have some guys that can be a good influence for him and kind of take him under their wing.”

Franchise stalwarts McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook have done just that, working extensively with the electric playmaker before and after practice.

“He’s pretty much been in a West Coast offense,” McNabb said. “I think he’s had about three coordinators who have all been similar in their style. There is nothing for me to tell him. … He’s run the offense himself.”

Off the field, Vick has remained mum since his contrite introductory news conference, but his brief stay in Philadelphia hasn’t been so smooth. On Aug. 16, a story in the New York Post included a firsthand account of Vick drinking a Grey Goose (vodka) and pineapple juice at a local hotel, resulting in questions of whether he was violating the terms of his probation or conditions of his potential NFL reinstatement.

He wasn’t.

Said one of his new teammates: “Jeez, the guy can’t have one drink without people going crazy.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is still pondering when to reinstate Vick for regular-season play and has said he’ll make his ruling by Week 6 at the latest. In the interim, fans will get a look at how the Eagles intend to use him both on Thursday and in Philadelphia’s final preseason game at the Meadowlands against the New York Jets on Sept. 3.

“Everybody knows what happened. It was bad, just bad all around,” Jackson said. “But you want to see one of your brothers get out there and get back into the swing of things. That goes for all NFL players. This is a fraternity. We want to see everybody do well, so it’s an exciting day for us to have him back out there.”

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