'I'm a little lost right now'
Falcons QB admits to frustration with West Coast offense(from the ajc)
Falcons quarterback Michael Vick said that his sprained right knee, suffered in Week 4 against Minnesota, was far more severe than he ever let on, prohibiting him from being the multi-dimensional threat last season than he's been in the past.
Vick said the injury led to insecurity and that was his fault, not offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, as to why he appeared not to develop in his second-year of the Falcons' version of the West Coast offense.
As for that offense, which Knapp and other coaches who've implemented it said takes three-to-five years to digest, Vick said he is "lost" about the team's overall philosophy, wondering why the passing game doesn't consist more of the short, slant patterns of most West Coast offenses.
In an exclusive, wide-ranging interview following Wednesday's practice for Sunday's Pro Bowl, Vick spoke candidly about his performance last season, his feelings about the offensive system and his brother Marcus' problems and potential NFL future.
Q. Some games it seemed like you made an effort, maybe too much of an effort, to stay in the pocket. Was that the case and, if so, what was going on?
A. "I think I did but the injury bug bothered me. I hurt my hamstring against Seattle then came back the following week and had a great game against Buffalo. The game after that I come back and sprained my knee then came back after a week off. I should have taken two weeks off. I played a game against New Orleans and I couldn't get myself into the rhythm I wanted to get in. I couldn't really run. I was afraid. I don't know if I was being selfish by staying out there and trying to help our team but after we lost to New England (when he sat out with the knee injury), I knew I couldn't be out too much longer.
"When I came back, I got into a little rhythm but then we lost a couple games. Every game, I felt I was prepared and that I was ready and that I did my job. Next year, I've just got to get back in the mode of taking over games. Hopefully my body is healthy enough to do that."
Q. Why didn't things work? Why didn't you take over games?
A. "I can't really just take over a game by myself. I can step my game up to another level and encourage guys and try to make plays but those other 10 guys around me have to do their jobs too. Same thing goes for the defense. The point I'm trying to make is I can't do it all by myself.
"Me being hurt, I couldn't run the ball the way I wanted to. I couldn't cut, couldn't spin. I just couldn't get loose the way I wanted to. I was never back to 100 percent. I took the brace off in Week 13 and it was something I had to fight through mentally. Hopefully next year I can dodge the injury bug and get back to playing the way I'm used to."
Q. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has taken a tremendous amount of heat because there are some people saying he's tried to make you into more of a standup, in the pocket quarterback.
A. "It was not coach Knapp. Coach Knapp never told me to stay in the pocket and go through my progressions. He always told me, 'If it's not there, you do what you do.' It wasn't coach. It was me. I really felt like I needed to protect myself, protect my knee. I just wasn't comfortable. It forced me to stay in the pocket a little bit more.
There were certain things we didn't do. There were certain things Knapp maybe didn't put in the playbook."
Q. Because of the knee?
A. "I can't think of any other reasons, so I'd have to say it was the knee."
Q. Going into next season, are there some things that need to be changed offensively? This is supposed to be a West Coast offense, but you guys really don't throw a lot of slant passes or quick-hitters like most teams that run the West Coast system.
A. "I thought the West Coast offense was supposed to be a lot of quick, dink-and-dunk passes and it's not being run that way. I'm not saying it's because of coach Knapp, but he's calling the plays. My perception of the West Coast thing is starting to change too. We're not doing what I see Seattle doing or San Francisco doing or Green Bay doing. We're not doing those things. I don't know if it's Knapp changing those things around but as far as I know, it's not the West Coast system as far as the way we run it.
"We're not dinking and dunking the way it's supposed to be done. It may be hurting me. It may be hurting the offense. I'm a little lost right now."
Falcons coach Jim Mora responded to Vick's answer:
"Mike's right. We don't run the West Coast offense. Greg and I have said that from Day One. Our offense is tailored to the skills of our players. That's one of the reasons we've risen in rankings from 29th before Greg took over the offense to 12th this past season and we expect to get much better."
Q. Going into next season, what will you do that might be different from the past?
A. "The only thing I need to do is get with Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, work with them and stay healthy. If I can do that then I got a shot, we've got a chance. Offensively and defensively, we've got to come to play. Everybody has to do his job. Offensively, that starts up from with the running game. Going down the stretch the end of the year our running game fell off. We couldn't do the things we wanted to do.
"Teams were keying on what we were going to do, our blocking schemes and everything that goes into it. It just didn't work and it hurt our offense. I've just got to be healthy â€” and confident."
Q. Regarding your brother Marcus (who was kicked off Virginia Tech's football team for a variety of infractions and later arrested for allegedly brandishing a firearm), how long are you going to keep protecting him?
A. "Forever. My brother is not a bad person. The best thing for Marc now is leaving college, getting away from a bunch of people he was around every day. Now he'll have a chance to play in the NFL and have somebody who can be there with him and can guide him in the right direction."
Q. What are you doing to guide him?
A. "Just talk to him but there's only so much you can say. At some point it has to come from inside. You've got to understand your situation, what's at stake. Marcus, he's more serious now, as far as preparing himself for the future than at any point in his life, even when he took on the starting quarterback role at Virginia Tech. I've never seen him this inspired. He's maturing a little bit.
"The last incident that happened was a shame it had to happen. It was a situation where a guy looked at him said, 'I think he pulled a gun on me. I want some money.' Then he'll go to his house and say, 'Give me $20,000 or I'm going to go to the police.' That's how easy it is for us to get into trouble."
Q. Did that happen?
A. "Somebody could walk up to Marc right now and tell everybody Marc punched him in his face and the whole world would believe him. That's the situation he was caught in. Somebody's trying to get some money. Things I'm dealing with (the civil lawsuit filed by an Atlanta area woman who claims Michael Vick gave her genital herpes), I can't talk about it but it's all about people trying to get money.
"It's a bad situation to be in but I guess that comes to the territory - but I don't see other athletes going through things me and my brother are going through. It's just a shame but we're strong so we'll be able to get through it."
Q. You have been loyal to Virginia Tech. Has the school's dismissal of Marcus changed your feelings about Tech?
A. "No. Absolutely not. That was a situation where after he did what he did in that game (stomped on Louisville's Elvis Dumervil in the Toyota Gator Bowl) it embarrassed the school. A lot of people wanted to see some type of punishment. He deserved what he got. Marc shouldn't have done what he did. I was the first to ask him, 'Why did you do what you did?' "I'm not bitter at all. They made their decision. What can I say?
"They've given Marc so many chances. They've dealt with a lot. It came to a point where they couldn't take any more."