Of Michael Vick and nonchalance

Michael Vick has turned the ball over 11 times in five games, including this costly fumble Sunday. AP Photo/Brian Garfinkel

I do not agree with the notion that Michael Vick doesn't care. Can't buy into it. Actually think it's preposterous. No sentient human would subject himself to the weekly rigors of practicing and playing NFL football every week if it didn't matter to him how he performed. And few who choose to do so get beaten up as badly on Sundays as Vick does. If he didn't care, he wouldn't be playing.

So I think we stray into dangerous territory when we begin dissecting postgame news conference answers and body language in search of evidence about what's in a person's heart and mind. Fans today get very upset when players on their favorite teams don't offer the outward appearance of caring as much or in the manner in which fans believe they should. We see it a lot. But just because someone doesn't appear to be as upset as you might if you found yourself in the same situation doesn't mean he's not.

I refer to the idea examined in this piece by Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com about Vick's instant reaction to postgame questions about his two fumbles Sunday:

It's one thing to persistently give the ball away and vow to make changes and get better until the problem is resolved. It's another thing to have a cavalier attitude about them, brushing them off like incomplete passes. Michael Vick had seemed to grasp the severity of his rampant turnover issues in the first three games. But after he lost fumbles on back-to-back possessions in the first quarter of Sunday's loss to the Steelers, one of which came as he was about to enter Pittsburgh’s end zone for an early touchdown, Vick seemed more unrepentant than usual. He seemed to suggest that turnovers were an act of higher authority and suddenly out of his control.

"Everything happens for a reason," Vick said afterward, "and if it was meant to be, I wouldn't have fumbled the ball at the goal line. But I have no explanation for it."

I was in the room for the news conference in question. I understand Geoff's point and consider his column a well-executed examination of a worthwhile question. I caution only against using the appearance of nonchalance in such a case as evidence of it. There are plenty of possible explanations for why Vick didn't seem as outraged by his two latest turnovers as everyone else seemed to be, and they're worth examining as well.

It could be, as Andy Reid suggested, that Vick is merely weary of anticipating and fielding questions for which he has no answer. He believes it should be obvious to everyone that he isn't turning the ball over on purpose, so the idea of the problem as something out of his hands (no pun intended) likely seems completely sensible to him. If he knew why he was fumbling, he'd surely stop.

It could be that Vick is irked at the extent to which the turnover numbers are overshadowing the positive things about the season he's having, including the Eagles' 3-2 record, the four fourth-quarter drives that have turned Eagles deficits into leads and the fact that he's now played three straight games without throwing an interception. He said a few times Sunday that he wanted to discuss the positives from the game instead of the negatives, and that could be a message to his questioners that he believes they're focusing too much on the bad at the expense of the good. If that's the case, then he's both right and wrong. Yes, being 3-2 and in first place should buy a team and a quarterback some benefit of the doubt. But on the flip side, he's turned the ball over 11 times in five games, and that's a stunning enough number to merit examination whether he likes it or not.

I don't think Vick is nonchalant about his turnovers. I think he's annoyed -- that they're happening, that he has to keep answering for them and at the perpetual implication the whole ongoing topic makes about his worth as a player. It may seem obvious to you and me, as outside observers, that Vick's game has inherent flaws that keep him from rising to the level of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. It may seem easy for you and I to jump to the conclusion that he'll never get them fixed. But it's anything but easy for Vick, as a world-class athlete with a lifelong history of success and a heap of professional pride, to make the same assessments and conclusions. And it's no surprise that such a person might bristle when confronted with them.

In that news conference Sunday, I didn't see a guy who doesn't care about his turnover problems. I saw a guy who's sick of talking about them but doesn't want to get into a fight about it. I saw a guy who, as he did in several interviews last summer, thinks it's not a bad idea to remind people that he's a pretty good player, since from his perspective that seems to be getting overlooked a little too much. Vick has, since arriving in Philadelphia, avoided being nasty and confrontational with the media even at times when it has appeared to be an effort for him. I think Sunday's postgame was more of that -- defiance, actually, masked by the knowledge of how important it is for someone in his very particular position not to lose his cool.

It's real easy to sit back as fans and even media and assume a player is being nonchalant or doesn't care, but it's also dangerous and damning, and I think it's important to think about the weight and implications of such a conclusion before jumping to it. I think Vick has a lot of actual, concrete issues that are keeping him from consistently being the player the Eagles and their fans want and expect him to be. And it's possible he's not focused enough, self-aware enough or even good enough when it comes to the things he needs to do in order to improve. But I have a real hard time looking at this situation and believing that any of it is because he doesn't care.