FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Michael Vick pointed the finger squarely at himself.
The New York Jets’ backup quarterback was stunningly critical when he acknowledged that he could’ve done a better job of getting ready to play on Oct. 5th. The comments drew the ire of fans and the media — and kudos from his head coach.
“When Mike looked at it,” Rex Ryan said, “he had the guts to say, ‘You know what? Maybe, I could have done more. I could have prepared better.'”
Rather than be alarmed by Vick’s admission, Ryan applauded the quarterback’s honesty.
“I think the way I challenged the team, in fact, this is exactly what I wanted,” Ryan said. “I want guys to take a stand.”
Vick is a backup quarterback who still draws a crowd of media around his locker befitting a starter. He knows all eyes are on him, especially with Geno Smith struggling through the Jets’ 1-4 start. When Smith was benched at halftime of New York’s 31-0 drubbing at San Diego, Vick came in to try to add a spark.
Instead, Vick struggled just as much as Smith in his first significant playing time this season, finishing 8-of 19-for 47 yards, compared to 4-of-12 for 27 yards by Smith.
Then came his jaw-dropping comments Wednesday that he perhaps took his scout-team reps during practice “for granted.” Vick was widely criticized for his apparent lack of preparation, especially for someone who has claimed to still have the ability to lead a team to the playoffs and beyond.
“I understand how it could be interpreted the way it was interpreted yesterday,” Vick said Thursday. “Honestly, when I heard about it, I knew I should’ve worded it probably a different way. That was just me taking responsibility. I’m very hard on myself. I expect a lot of myself when I go out on the field and I play, and I know my teammates expect a lot out of me.”
With the Jets staring at a potential 1-6 start with games against Denver and New England coming up, there have been comments by players such as linebacker Demario Davis that New York isn’t “practicing like a championship football team.” Ryan strongly disagreed with that assessment, but Vick’s comments raised some eyebrows.
A day later, Vick didn’t back away from anything he said.
“I probably should have just said that I take responsibility for things not going well, not saying that I’ve got to prepare myself even better,” Vick said. “That’s just me personally, what I felt like I had to do. That’s what I took away from the game. I can have my own set of things that I feel like should take place in order for me to play well, and that’s the only reason I said that.”
As the backup quarterback, Vick takes very few, if any, snaps with the first-team offense. Those go to Smith, and Vick works with the backups and the scout team, something that Vick is unaccustomed to doing.
“This is new for me,” he said. “I understand, and I respect the role and I appreciate it, and from here on out, I’ll do better.”
Despite Vick’s self-critical comments, neither Ryan nor offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said they have seen any drop-off from the quarterback in his preparation from week to week.
“It didn’t come out the way that he was thinking about it,” Mornhinweg said. “We’ve both done that, where you say something and think, ‘That’s not really what I meant.’ Preparation, Mike is diligent with his preparation, now. There’s no question about that.”
When the Jets signed Vick last March, it was to provide a mentor for Smith, but also someone who could push the second-year quarterback on the practice field. The starting quarterback job, though, was clearly Smith’s all along — something Vick understood from the moment he arrived.
That’s why getting more snaps with the first-team offense isn’t something Vick is campaigning for to the coaches.
“If I do that, then that takes away from what we’ve got to do for Geno,” Vick said. “The reps that Geno needs are imperative, very important. We always want to make sure the No. 1 guy is prepared and ready to go. I want that for Geno. I’m a 12-year veteran. I’m going to find a way to get it done.”
That means extra throws after practice, being sharp on the playbook and being honest and critical of his own preparation, focus and production.
“Going back to what I said (Wednesday), I’m just that way, and I’m going to always be that way, and maybe there will be more articles that you’ll write that may have been misconstrued or misinterpreted,” Vick said.
“I can live with that. I just know I take responsibility for my actions deep down and to the heart. I love the game so much that I’d do anything to be successful. It just comes out of me sometimes.”
(DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer)