- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 7, 2015

LEESBURG, Va. | Michael Vick stood in front of a camera at the Lansdowne Resort on Saturday, dressed for an afternoon round of golf.

Time has sapped one of the sport’s most electric athletes of his athleticism, turning the former No. 1 overall pick into an aging quarterback still looking for a job. His 35th birthday is less than three weeks away.

“Do you still feel like you could be a starter in this league?” a television reporter asked.

Vick paused.

“Absolutely,” he replied. “Yeah, I do.”

Vick joined LeSean McCoy and a handful of other celebrities in Leesburg over the weekend to attend a charity golf tournament hosted by their former Philadelphia Eagles teammate, DeSean Jackson. The event raised money for Playworks, a local nonprofit, and the Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Jackson’s father, Bill, died of the disease in 2009.

Though they have not shared a field in nearly two years, Jackson and Vick remain close. Vick said the connections built in Philadelphia are as strong today as they were then. Jackson referred to the quarterback as a mentor and older brother.

“And I think he can still play in this league and play at a high level,” Jackson said. “So hopefully he gets picked up.”

As organized team activities and minicamps continue around the league, Vick is one of several veteran free agents that remain unemployed. The list includes more than a dozen high-profile names, from former defensive stalwarts Dwight Freeney and Lance Briggs to wide receiver Wes Welker.

Vick said he is not concerned about joining a team late in the offseason.

“I think when you’re a veteran, you can do it,” he said. “You understand everything that goes on throughout the course of an NFL season, throughout the course of a preseason. So you know how to pace yourself. You’ve just got to stay training. You’ve just got to work out. You have to make sure when you go in that you’re in tip-top shape and not lagging, because if you do, it’s going to show.”

After starting parts of four seasons with the Eagles, Vick signed a one-year deal with the New York Jets last spring. He started three games and appeared in three more, completing 52.9 percent of his passes for 604 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He was not resigned by the team when his contract expired.

Vick has spent his offseason working out in Miami. Last month, he told The Virginian-Pilot that he hopes to add five or six pounds of muscle to improve his durability. Even as his athleticism dwindles, he remains confident that he can help an NFL team.

“I think over the course of my career, I’ve transitioned into being a better quarterback, in a sense,” Vick explained. “Definitely [former Eagles coach] Andy Reid helped with that. Now I just take everything and just put it all together. I’m probably not as good an athlete as I was back then, but I make up for it mentally. So now, it’s the total package. I’m still strong, still fast, still quick. Those are my intangibles, and I’ve got to continue to use them.”

Vick grew up in southern Virginia and starred at Virginia Tech. Late last season, he told Newsday that returning to the area and playing for the Redskins would be “a dream come true.” That appears unlikely, however, with quarterbacks Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy all under contract for the upcoming season.

When asked if he has had preliminary negotiations with any team, Vick did not specify. “I’m just following my agent’s lead,” he said. After a 12-year professional career, he knows now that all he can do is continue working, and wait.

“Just continuing to work out each and every day, continue to stay optimistic and believe,” Vick said. “And at the same time, continue to try to figure out the things that I can do better. So this time is very valuable right now. If it takes this time to come back and be an even better player, then that’s what it has to be.”

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