Jul 28, 2010

Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp Drama: Prodigal Son, Unwanted Rebel

USA Today
(Bethlehem, PA)—It was an eerie scene at the opening of Eagles' training camp. The welcome signs of the upcoming season were all around, yet one thing seemed out of place.

For the first time in 11 years the familiar face of Donovan McNabb was missing from the Lehigh University practice field, and the dichotomy of the Eagles' quarterback situation took center stage.

It was only fitting of the road ahead that embattled backup quarterback Michael Vick entered the field for opening warm-ups alone.

Walking with his head down and his fist in the air, he was riddled with comments and boos from the Eagles' faithful. The ovation was a positive upgrade from the protesters of last season but the tense ovation is still prevalent every time Vick took a snap.

Just minuted later anointed quarterback Kevin Kolb entered the field side-by-side with rookie draftee Mike Kafka. Kolb's ovation was a stark contrast to that of Vick, as the former was cheered and applauded even before he took his first snap.

I know that this is only the opening of training camp, and we still have weeks of practice and preseason games before September 12th when the Eagles host the Green Bay Packers, but the storyline of the season is already alive and kicking.

Opening stretches came and went, and then both quarterbacks met with the media. Perched from the familiar spot of the podium, Kolb answered questions with the ease and expectations of a guy anointed as the team's future.

Kolb was asked about the pressure that goes along with being the new starting quarterback.

"I just try to block out a lot of those things and just focus on the game, on practice, on one rep at a time."

As much as the media and Kolb tried to avoid the topic, McNabb became the buzzword around Lehigh.

"Donovan texted me a few times this week... mostly with words of encouragement," stated Kolb.
This was a stark contrast from the ovations and backing of the team's other high profile gunslinger, Michael Vick.

Vick, who was recently exonerated of any involvement in the nightclub shooting at his birthday party, avoided any questions involving the event and took the high road with the Philadelphia media.

Despite his omission of comments, the questions were aplenty, as the media asked about where he was when Quanis Phillips, a defendant in Vick's dog fighting trial, suffered a gunshot wound to the leg at the public birthday party.

The questions and negative attention seemed to affect Vick on the field, as his accuracy and control of his throws suffered in his reps with the first team offense. Seeing as it's only training camp, most of those issues will be addressed, but it was readily apparent that Vick is still rattled by his role as the Eagles' resident badboy.

The on-field production was the complete opposite of Kolb's, who looked crisp and controlled from the pocket. Despite the pressure of taking over the top spot, Kolb showed the poise and confidence wanted from a young quarterback taking over the reins of an NFL franchise.

As camp commences and the day-to-day nuances of another NFL season set in, the players will find their roles and begin to gel, but if day one taught us anything about the 2010-11 Philadelphia Eagles, it has shown us that a new regime has begun.

The questions is: If the Kevin Kolb era falls flat, will the city and the fans really rally behind a polarizing figure like Michael Vick, or will the unwanted rebel refuse?

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