It's been the one "Yeah, but..." about Michael Vick(notes) through the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback's improbable comeback - if he can stay healthy with all the hits he takes, Vick might lead the Eagles deep into the playoffs, and will be mentioned in various MVP discussions. Generally speaking, those concerns about the pounding Vick takes on the field focus on plays in which he is out of the pocket and therefore a runner who is fair game for any defense.
But in the mind of head coach Andy Reid, there needs to be more attention paid to the hits Vick takes both after the whistle, and as a pure pocket passer.
"It bothers me, to be honest with you," Reid recently told Sal Paolantonio of ESPN Philadelphia. "That bothers me. He does run, but he's still the quarterback and you can't treat him like he's a running back there. That's not what the rules state."
Reid said that he will deal with the people he needs to deal with on that subject, though he did not say whether he had filed a specific complaint with the league. Vick recently spoke to the same issue on Philly's WIP-AM radio.
"If you go back and watch the film, I'm getting hit after I throw the ball, repeatedly. It's time after time after time. I'm getting my facemask pulled, I'm getting hit in the head, the calls are not being made," Vick said. "Every time I get hit, I look up at the ref and I see no flag. And I see other quarterbacks standing in the pocket -- the minute they get touched, there's a flag on the field."
According to Football Outsiders' game-charting metrics, Vick has 25 quarterback hits, which gives him the 10th-highest figure in the league, on only 171 pass attempts. FO makes sure to tabulate their numbers, which occasionally go beyond those taken by official scorers, based on hits in the pocket. And among those 25 hits on Vick, just two have drawn roughing the passer calls - one against Detroit's Julian Peterson(notes) in Week 2, and one against Indianapolis' Gary Brackett(notes) in Week 9. Teams playing the Eagles have seen four generic personal fouls, but only one against the defense, and the six unnecessary roughness calls against Philly's opponents include just two against the defense.
Before we all go off the grid and assume that this is an issue forged by a leaguewide lack of concern for Vick because of his past, it's important to note that as a running quarterback, Vick is very much on the line between passer and runner on most of the plays in which he's a main character.
With all the talk about the NFL's new and more quarterback-friendly contact rules, it's very clear that half the time, officials have absolutely no clue what constitutes roughing the passer, because there are plays every week in which players are fined but not flagged and vice versa. And that's with stationary pocket passers. How are these same guys going to accurately decide when Vick is a quarterback when he's running all over the place? How are they to decide when Ben Roethlisberger(notes) is in the grasp when he can hit Mike Wallace(notes) 40 yards downfield with three defenders draped all over him?
Reid and Vick have a valid point about the way hits are not being called, but the real problem goes back to the fact that the NFL implemented a new policy regarding contact without training the players and officials. That disconnect is at the heart of all the current issues.