Get the Athlon Sports Newsletter
Eagles' quarterback leads NFC in Pro Bowl voting.
By Charean Williams
Michael Vick still hears the boos. He knows his critics are out there, and nothing he can do will change their opinion of him. He understands he never again will be completely appreciated for his play on the field, no matter how brilliant.
Still, Vick vows he is not only a better quarterback on the field but a better man off of it.
“I hope people will forgive me [because of] what I do on the field,” Vick said. “But that’s just half of it. I would hope they would forgive me [because of] what I’m trying to do off the field as well.
“You can’t change people’s opinions about you, and you definitely can’t change perception. But I think and hope as time goes on that people would have a different perspective and outlook.”
Less than two years after being released from prison, Vick leads the NFL in Pro Bowl voting. He has come back from a 21-month stay behind bars as a changed passer.
Vick had never completed more than 56.4 percent of his passes or had a passer rating higher than 81.6 in his six seasons as the Atlanta Falcons’ starter. He was better known for the 1,039 yards he ran for in 2006. This season, Vick ranks second in the NFL with a 105.7 passer rating, and he has completed 63.8 percent of his passes.
“I think he’ll be the first to tell you it’s his approach,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “He had some time to think about it when he was incarcerated. He came out and had a plan in mind of what he wanted to do. [Offensive coordinator] Marty Mornhinweg did a phenomenal job with him. James Urban, who is his position coach, did a phenomenal job with him. Unless a player really wants to do it, it’s not going to happen. He wanted to up his game and make it better. And so he was very receptive to coaching and working out and doing all those things.”
Vick admits he hasn’t always put his all into honing his craft. In Atlanta, he got by on his natural playmaking ability.
It wasn’t until Vick got a second chance that he took his job as seriously as it required. He now says he “wasted some years” not being all he could be as a passer.
“I realized all the talents that I have and I’ve been blessed with,” Vick said. “I just wanted to take advantage of every opportunity. I thank God for blessing with a great arm, a strong arm, and I think Him for blessing me with the ability to improvise and move and make plays with my legs. I feel like why not put it all together. Just take advantage of all the opportunities I’m given, because the truth of the matter is I’m 30 years old. Who knows how much time I have left to play but maybe it’s five years, maybe it’s six years, who knows? So why not give it everything I have now.”
Jets fullback has a special friend
Jets fullback Tony Richardson has given 16-year-old Tyler Nelson his friendship, his support and tons of Jets’ gear. That doesn’t mean Nelson, who is awaiting new lungs and a new liver, has changed his NFL loyalty.
“Yeah, he’s a big Cowboys fan,” Richardson said, “but he definitely tries to watch all my games and even if he can’t watch them on television, he looks at them on the computer. He’s definitely — slowly — getting turned into a Jets fan.”
Nelson was born with cystic fibrosis, a diagnosis doctors made two days after his birth. His liver now is cirrhotic, his lungs damaged and his spleen “the size of a football,” according to his mother, Cynthia Nevels.
Nelson, who is from the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie, has been in Houston since Oct. 22 hoping and praying for transplants. He needs them by Christmas.
Friends started a Web site — www.giftstotyler.org — to update Tyler’s condition, to raise funds to help with medical expenses and to encourage organ donor registration. Jets players Mark Sanchez, Nick Mangold and Dustin Keller have shared the link with their Twitter followers.
“I hope my story will reach other young people and help inspire them to think about registering,” Nelson said.
Richardson, who struck up his friendship with Nelson during a Make-a-Wish Foundation event at Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Fla., in February 2009, has been inspired by Nelson.
“When we had dinner in Dallas, his mom said, ‘Oh, you’ve done so much for Tyler.’ But I think he’s done so much more for me,” Richardson said.
Fourth and short
• Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs might have earned All-Pro honors last week when he had three tackles for losses, 1.5 sacks and five quarterback hits against the Steelers. Suggs, a three-time Pro Bowler, signed a six-year, $62.5 million contract before last season. He then went out and had a career-worst season with only 4.5 sacks. But Suggs has been worth every penny this season, with a team-leading nine sacks, 55 tackles and a forced fumble.
• Falcons receiver Roddy White has 91 catches for 1,140 yards and seven touchdowns. The two-time Pro Bowler is only nine receptions shy of becoming the team’s first receiver to catch 100 balls in a season since Eric Metcalf in 1995.
• Carolina rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen is 0-6 as a starter and has thrown only one touchdown pass.
• Tom Brady, 33, never seems to age. He is playing as well right now as he did in 2007 when he threw a record 50 touchdowns. In the past two games, Brady has thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions. He has gone seven consecutive games without being picked off, while throwing 17 touchdowns in that span. For the season, Brady has 27 touchdowns and four interceptions, with an NFL-best 109.4 rating. His passer rating has been over 117.0 in each of the past four games.
• Jay Cutler has been sacked 41 times, more than any other quarterback in the league despite missing 1½ games with a concussion. Bears quarterbacks have been sacked a league-worst 45 times, five more than the 31st-ranked Cardinals, and three times as many as New England, Chicago’s opponent this week.
• Bengals receiver Terrell Owens likely has talked his way out of Cincinnati and played his way into a decent contract with another team. Owens, who turned 37 on Tuesday, has 71 receptions for 961 yards. He is on pace to finish with 95 receptions for 1,274 yards and 12 touchdowns. That would earn him only three of the six incentives in his contract (each worth $333,333), giving him a salary of $3 million this season.
• The Cardinals’ seven-game losing streak is the longest since the team lost eight consecutive games in 2006. At 3-9, the Cardinals are assured of having their first losing record in four seasons under coach Ken Whisenhunt.
• Money might not be a factor in the Broncos’ coaching search despite owing Mike Shanahan $3.5 million and Josh McDaniels $5.4 million over two seasons. The Broncos don’t seem fazed by the fact that they will be paying three head coaches next season.
• Packers kicker Mason Crosby has been ice cold when the weather turns frigid. He is 13-of-21 on field-goal attempts when the game-time temperature is 32 degrees or below.
• Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has had four personal foul penalties this season, five if the illegal hit on Jake Delhomme in the preseason is counted. He was fined $7,500 for the hit on Delhomme.
• Texans running back Arian Foster leads the NFL with 1,230 rushing yards and 1,709 yards from scrimmage. He also leads the league with 98 first downs. On third down, he has 27 carries and 20 first downs (74.1 percent). Second is Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew at 43.5 percent. Foster is tied with Cleveland’s Peyton Hillis at converting 3rd-and-1 runs, and he leads in 3rd-and-2 runs. Foster also has caught more third-down passes (18) than any back in the league.
• Peyton Manning won his record fourth MVP award last year with 4,500 passing yards, 33 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. This season, he has 3,709 yards passing with 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Eleven of his picks have come in the past three games.
• The average margin of defeat for Indianapolis this season is 6.8 points.
• Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew has compiled five 100-yard games in a row. He had a career-high 186 yards against the Titans, and he has 1,177 yards on 261 carries for the season.
• Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali has a career-high 10 sacks this season. That gives him 37 career sacks. He also has forced three fumbles in 2010, giving him 17 forced fumbles over his career. In nine career starts against San Diego, Hali has 4.5 sacks.
• Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne has five three-interception games in 23 starts, with a 12-11 record. Three of those three-interception games have come in his past eight starts. Henne has thrown 25 interceptions in his past 15 starts.
• Vikings defensive end Jared Allen had only one sack in the first seven games of the season. He has 7.5 the past five games.
• The Patriots have won 14 consecutive regular-season home games. They have not lost a regular-season game in Foxboro since Nov. 30, 2008.
• Saints rookie running back Chris Ivory has two 100-yard rushing games this season. It marks the first time a Saints’ running back has had two 100-yard rushing games in a season since Deuce McAllister did it in 2006. From 2007-09, the Saints had just four players rush for 100 yards in 48 regular-season games.
• Sean Payton has won 10 of his past 11 games against AFC competition, including a victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. The Saints lost to the Browns 30-17 on Oct. 24.
• The Giants are 9-1 when Brandon Jacobs runs for at least 100 yards.
• The Jets are 8-0 against teams at or below .500 and 1-3 against teams with winning records.
• Jets kicker Nick Folk has missed six of his past 12 field-goal attempts.
• The Raiders are 4-0 against division opponents. The reason: They are running and not being run over. In four division games this season, Oakland has 160 rushes for 802 yards and nine touchdowns. Their opponents — the Chargers twice, the Chiefs and the Broncos — have 83 carries for 291 yards and one touchdown.
• Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall topped 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season, but his average per carry has dipped to 3.9. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry last season.
• Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is one win shy of tying Dave Krieg as the team’s all-time winningest quarterback. Krieg won 70 games from 1981-90.
• Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has thrown only two interceptions in his past seven games, or 246 pass attempts. In the past seven games, all other NFL quarterbacks have thrown 219 interceptions.
• The Titans have gone 13 quarters without an offensive touchdown.
• Nose tackle Albert Haynesworth likely has played his last game in Washington. Haynesworth has received all but $9 million of the $41 million he was guaranteed in the seven-year, $100 million deal he signed before last season. In return, the Redskins received 77 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 43 hurries, a fumble recovery and seven passes defensed in 20 games, 12 of those starts. Washington was 7-13 when he was on the field.