DAVIE, Fla. -- Because the physical contact at minicamp is minimal, Miami Dolphins rookie Marcus Vick hasn't yet had a forearm shoved into his chest to redirect him from a pass route, hasn't been jammed much at the line of scrimmage by a bump-and-run cornerback, and hasn't been tackled.
In the shorts-and-T-shirt environment of a weekend minicamp, it's indeed difficult to analyze whether the younger brother of you-know-who has a legitimate shot at an NFL career.
But say this much for Vick, the former college quarterback who was signed by Miami as an undrafted free agent following a sometimes tumultuous tenure at Virginia Tech, and who is trying to make the transition to wide receiver: When it comes to catching the football, Vick seems to be, well, catching on.
"He's doing a nice job," coach Nick Saban assessed after Saturday morning's minicamp practice. "He's a good athlete. We're pleased with his progress."
Dolphins rookies were not permitted to do interviews during the weekend minicamp, and so Vick's actions had to speak for him, since words couldn't. At least on the field, particularly during the Saturday morning practice, Vick performed pretty well.
He caught five passes in the team segments of the workout, two of them under duress, one on which he nestled down between a pair of defenders in the middle of the field, and latched on to a bullet delivered by free agent rookie quarterback Justin Holland. Vick lined up at quarterback for a few snaps and, while he looks perilously tiny in the pocket, completed one pass. Vick also fielded punts.
That's precisely the kind of job description the Dolphins envision for Vick, who is listed on the roster as a WR/QB/Spec in NFL shorthand. Do a lot of things, try to make a little progress every day, and develop perhaps as a gimmick guy for new coordinator Mike Mularkey, an inveterate trick-play schemer with a deep bag of gadget plays.
Vick isn't particularly big and, in fact, seems smaller than the 6-feet-0 and 216 pounds at which he's listed. As a quarterback, it appears his only role would be on trick plays. Fielding punts, a chore he never handled in college, Vick looked tentative. He rarely squared himself under the ball and too often caught it out in front of him. But as a receiver, he might have a chance, in time, of being able to contribute.
There were occasions during both Saturday practices in which he rounded off his routes too much. And one has to wonder, once he gets into camp and full-contact drills, if cornerbacks will be able to knock him off his routes because of his lack of size. But for a guy whose only previous exposure to wide receiver came in the Insight Bowl following the 2003 season, a game in which he caught four passes for 82 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown grab, he might have some potential at the position.
Miami scouts and coaches seem to think Vick is a better athlete than many teams had him pegged and for a modest investment -- a two-year contract at minimum base salaries of $275,000 for 2006 and $350,000, no signing bonus and only a few incentives -- taking a look at a player with his athleticism, and with basically no financial risk involved, might be worth the gamble.
The guess is that Vick, who bypassed the opportunity to sign with the CFL, where he probably would have had the chance to play quarterback, could be stashed on the practice squad for a year, to give him time to assimilate some of the nuances of playing wide receiver. There is plenty of competition for the backup jobs behind starters Chris Chambers and Marty Booker, who sustained an ankle injury Saturday morning and was being evaluated, but most of the players in the hunt have more experience than Vick does.
There is no denying, though, that Saban is intrigued by the possibilities Vick might provide the Dolphins' offense down the road.
"I'm sure the multiple roles may not totally enhance his development as a receiver," Saban said, "but he really only spends about two periods every day with the quarterbacks. The rest of the time, he's with the receivers, and we're pleased with the progress he's made."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.