The League

Leonard Shapiro

Leonard Shapiro

Washington Post sports reporter, editor and columnist who has served on the NFL HOF Selection Committee.

Health is paramount


Before we award Michael Vick the league MVP award, can we just wait to see how many more games his rambling, scrambling style will allow him to play.

There is no question that Vick turned in the performance of a lifetime Monday night against the woebegone Washington Redskins, throwing for four touchdowns, running for two more, gaining 80 yards on the ground and compiling a 150 quarterback rating. He was unstoppable. He was virtually untouched. He was unbelievable.

But in order to be considered the league MVP, Vick will have to stay healthy over the second half of the Eagles season, and that may be no easy task considering his penchant for dashing out of the pocket and down the field. Vick has started and finished only four games for Philadelphia so far, all victories. But he was not able to finish his team's first game against the Redskins, leaving the field with some badly bruised ribs that forced him to miss his next two starts.

Philadelphia's offensive coaching staff keeps imploring Vick to slide to the turf at the end of his breathtaking runs, the better to avoid the big hit that could potentially end his day, or his season. Not once did Vick heed that advice against the Redskins, and he was able to get away with it. This time.

There is a reason there are plenty of bold quarterbacks and quite a few old quarterbacks all around the NFL these days. But there are very few old, bold quarterbacks playing in the NFL this or any other year, for all the obvious reasons.

After seeing the tape of the Eagles/Redskins game, every defensive coordinator who has to play Philadelphia over the final seven weeks of the season almost surely will use a spy to shadow Vick every step of the way. And you can also be sure that despite the league's safety first campaign this season, those very same coaches are probably giving their players the same message Redskins defensive guru Jim Haslett delivered to his own players last week, according to ESPN sideline reporter Suzy Kolber.

Kolber said Haslett told his lads that if Vick runs out of the pocket, hit him hard enough to hurt him without drawing a yellow flag. Make him pay, especially if he eschews the safety slide.

Vick's ribs surely still must be sore from that first Redskins game, and you can be certain he's going to take a lot more punishment as the weeks go on. If he can perform at or close to the same level exhibited Monday night at FedEx Field, and if the Eagles can keep winning, he's a no-brainer choice as league MVP, with one other huge if. If he can stay healthy, too, give that man the trophy, no question.

By Leonard Shapiro  |  November 17, 2010; 7:54 AM ET  | Category:  Leonard Shapiro , Michael Vick , Philadelphia Eagles , Quarterbacks Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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