Some see Mike Vick as a reckless magician. He's too competitive for his own good, which is why the quarterback always leaves games early.
And -- with all apologies to backup/rookie sensation Nick Foles -- the 2012 Eagles can't afford that if they have any chance of breaking the franchise's 52-year championship drought. Andy Reid knows it. The fans know it. Most importantly, Vick knows it.
So he has enlisted the help of Unequal Technologies, the first company to grant Vick an endorsement deal after his prison sentence. The two have collaborated on a new Flak jacket that Unequal guaranteed will keep No. 7 healthy.
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"We work directly with the military, so we've learned to be smarter about technology," said Rob Vito, president of Unequal Technologies. "Our vests must stop 44-magnum bullets to within a quarter of an inch. [Vick's vest] isn't bulletproof, but it's the same principle."
Vick has already been injured twice this preseason, once when his throwing hand clipped a teammates' helmet, again when he took a shot to the ribs. He was not wearing this equipment then, nor when he broke three ribs and punctured a lung last winter.
Reid has scoffed at the notion that Vick is injury-prone. After all, football is a very rough sport.
"It's a violent sport where you're going to get injuries," Reid said. "If you're out there worried about that part of it, you're not going to perform to the best of your ability."
Vick could be worried about the mental side, but he shouldn't be worried about the physical part, at least not according to Vito.
"We tell athletes, when you get hurt, don't blame yourself," Vito said. "Blame the equipment."
Vick's new Flak jacket is thinner, lighter and more flexible than last year's version. It's made of a new composite, comprised of military-grade, battle-tested Dupont Kevlar. Vick helped design the new vest, which covers his entire sternum. He'll also wear shorts featuring the words, "It's never just a game" and "Prepare for battle."
"That's how Mike Vick plays," Vito said. "Sometimes his zealousness and enthusiasm puts him in harm's way, but that's where we come in."
Unequal, which was born in 2008, also outfits other NFL stars, like Tony Romo and James Harrison, as well as MLB umpires. When asked again if he guarantees the safety of his product, Vito didn't flinch.
"We build for the military and you have to stop that bullet and shrapnel every time," he said. "There is no other option."
Vick, offense look to shake rust in opener
The Eagles' first-team offense struggled -- at least for the few plays Vick was healthy -- to get into a rhythm in the preseason.
In that small sample set, Vick went 4-of-7 for 11 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. The starting quarterback didn't look particularly sharp -- his longest completion was a 5-yard check down to DeSean Jackson -- before going down for good against New England.
Vick will enter the season with a lot of rust. It might be up to the rest of the offense to help knock the cobwebs off -- or maybe his natural instincts will just take over.
"I don't think it'll take long," Vick said of getting his groove back. "One snap, maybe."
"I think he's ready to go," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "I think in that ballgame that he got hurt, I think he would have played in the game if it was a regular season game."
Vick hasn't played a full 16-game schedule since 2006 in Atlanta. Vick became the first quarterback in the modern NFL era to rush for more than 1,000 yards, with 1,039, that season.
Break rook in case of emergency
No matter how innovative the technology behind Mike Vick's equipment is, there is no promise that he'll make it through a 16-game schedule.
If he doesn't, the Birds are prepared to lean on a 23-year-old kid with surfer looks and a rocket arm. Nick Foles is the ultimate backup plan.
"I 100-percent support Mike Vick. He's such a talented player and leader of this team," Foles said. "I said it before, but I am going to do everything I can to help this team, whether it's in practice or during a game. I am just going to be ready to play."
And Vick threw the love right back when asked about Foles.
"I feel very confident in Nick's ability to run this offense," he said. "He did a great job in the preseason."