Philadelphia Michael Vick flicked his wrist and fired tight spirals deep downfield.
A two-year layoff sure didn’t hurt Vick’s arm strength. He showed off his skills Saturday in his first NFL practice with the Philadelphia Eagles since completing his prison sentence.
“He throws the ball as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen,” said wide receiver Danny Amendola, a second-year pro who spent last season on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad.
Wearing a No. 7 red quarterback’s jersey, Vick took part in limited drills with the offense. He worked in one-on-ones, seven-on-sevens and red-zone offense. Vick mostly observed Donovan McNabb during the two-hour session.
When he got a chance on the field, the 29-year-old quarterback made the most of it. He had plenty of zip behind his throws and completed a few deep balls, including one to rookie wideout Jeremy Maclin down the sideline.
Vick put in extra time after practice, working on footwork and mechanics with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. He was the last player to leave the field, jogging off with his helmet still on.
Asked how he felt, Vick replied: “Great.”
Vick didn’t speak to the large contingent of reporters around his mostly empty locker. As he finished taking off his ankle braces, Vick drew a chuckle when he said: “This is weird.”
Vick was the fourth quarterback to line up under center in the early portion of the practice. Vick took only one snap and completed his first pass over the middle against no defense. He playfully pumped his fist before McNabb, who lobbied the Eagles to sign Vick, and gave him a hug.
In the morning walkthrough, Vick worked with the scout team offense.
“We have to get him in football shape,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. Reid said Vick was fit enough to handle an NFL practice and the team would bring him along accordingly.
Vick practiced only at quarterback in the morning session, Reid said.
“That’s what Michael is,” he said. “Michael’s a quarterback.”
A three-time Pro Bowl pick during six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, Vick served 18 months in federal prison for running a dogfighting ring and was reinstated last month by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being out of action since 2006.
He signed a one-year deal with the Eagles on Thursday for $1.6 million with a team option for a second year at $5.2 million.
With McNabb entrenched as the starter and Kevin Kolb backing him up, Vick may be used more as a gimmick player than a traditional quarterback. He’s got the athletic skills to run the Wildcat formation.
“There’s always the possibility you can do something,” Reid said.
Vick always has been far more inclined to take off and run than stay in the pocket and find an open receiver. His career completion percentage is 53.8 percent, among the lowest for a starting NFL quarterback. He has 71 career touchdown passes, but 52 interceptions.
Vick has more career 100-yard rushing games (8) than 250-yard passing games (6).
Aiding his return to the NFL is the fact he’ll be learning an Eagles’ West Coast offense similar to what he ran in Atlanta.
“He’s very fortunate he knows the foundation of this offense. That will speed things up,” Reid said.
McNabb, a five-time Pro Bowl pick, has led the Eagles to five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl appearance in the last eight years. Vick said his friendship with McNabb and the team’s strong management and tradition influenced his decision to choose the Eagles over other teams.
“I thought this was the perfect situation, perfect scenario,” Vick said Friday at his introductory news conference. “I can come in and I can learn from Donovan, one of the premier quarterbacks in the game, one of the best at it. Everything that he’s learned and the way he’s been polished just comes from coach Reid. I want to get with those two and do as much as I can to become a complete quarterback and I have time to do it.”
The Eagles were heavily criticized by animal rights’ activists for signing Vick and dozens of protesters voiced their outrage outside the team’s practice facility Friday. There was not much of a scene Saturday afternoon: Seven people stood outside the gates, four of them anti-Vick.
Any furor over Vick’s signing has not stopped the NFL marketing machine. Vick’s new Eagles’ jersey — available in white, black or midnight green — was available on the league’s Web site for $259.99.