Michael Vick: I'm still a premier quarterback

New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith ,left, stretches
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New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith ,left, stretches with teammates during NFL football training camp in Cortland, N.Y., Monday , Aug. 11, 2014.(Credit: Hans Pennink)

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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Michael Vick opened his 12th NFL training camp Wednesday by explaining to the media why he still feels like a premier quarterback.

Geno Smith opened his second NFL training camp with a declaration that, if he stays healthy, he hopes to be the starting quarterback.

And Rex Ryan, who will have a major say in picking between the two, opened his sixth training camp as Jets coach by heaping praise on both players.

"I don't know if we have had a better quarterback situation since I have been the head coach here," Ryan said.

Somewhere in South Philadelphia, Mark Sanchez is saying ouch. Yet, Ryan's comments weren't so much a dig at his former quarterback than it was the sort of unbridled enthusiasm that is the hallmark of the start of camp. The Jets have brought in the veteran Vick to both push and mentor Smith, who had a rough time as a starter in his rookie season until winning three of his final four games.

"I think Geno, really, he's head and shoulders above where he was last year," Ryan said. "Even just from the fundamental part of the game . . . I think Geno has really picked up our system. He's way ahead where he was last year.

"Now, you add in Mike Vick who also knows the system and is a great athlete, and I think it's just a great situation."

The Jets, who Wednesday reported to Cortland and will practice for the first time Thursday, have stacked the deck in Smith's favor with a plan to give him 75 percent of the reps in training camp. That, however, doesn't seem to bother Vick much.

"The thing that popped up when I heard that is, it's going to be very important for me to get mental reps," Vick said. "For any athlete out there in the country, when you're not getting the reps with the 1s, mental reps with the 2s are just as important. I can't lose sight of that."

Vick and Smith seem to like each other, and Vick seems open to playing the role of mentor. Still, he said he believes he is a "premier quarterback."

"That's in my heart," he said. "I feel like when I step on the field I can go out and do great things. My thing is to go out and improve every day and not feel like a crabby veteran who knows it all. I still feel like I can help this team win."

Smith said he has gained about 10 pounds of muscle since the start of last season. He also has gained a greater comfort level in Marty Mornhinweg's offense. He said he is looking forward to competing against Vick in training camp.

"I expect it to help a lot. Mike is a guy who has proven himself in this league," Smith said. "He's a guy that can obviously get it done and for me to go up against a guy like that means a lot. To be able to compete with him and learn from him is definitely going to help me out."

The Jets have had quarterback competitions before, and they didn't turn out well. (See Tim Tebow-Mark Sanchez from two years ago.) Ryan would not reveal his timetable for naming the starter, and seemed almost amused to be asked the question before his team had even held a practice.

Said Ryan: "Let's just get through a couple of days of training camp here and things like that. I look at our situation here and when I say it is the strongest quarterback situation since I've been here, I really mean it."

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