PHILADELPHIA -- Michael Vick returned from practice Thursday, still wearing the quarterback's invincibility cloak: the red jersey that lets defenders know he can't be hit.
If Vick could wear red on Sundays, his coaches might sleep better at night.
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His torso is tightly taped, with an oversize ice pack bulging beneath. It's a reminder of his broken ribs, a side effect of the fearless scrambling style that has helped him become the NFL's all-time leading rushing quarterback.
It's also a reminder of the three games those ailing ribs caused him to miss last month, two of which the Eagles lost. And of the risks in giving a $100-million contract to a player who's played 16 games in a regular season only once.
"It's going to be the death of me to get him to protect himself," Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "I do think he's gotten better, but not nearly as good as he needs to be for the best interests of his team and, secondly, the best interests of him."
Vick, a four-time Pro Bowler, doesn't seem concerned. He's sore, he said, but he's used to it.
"That's just my style of play," Vick said. "I take a lot of hits. I used to play football in the backyard and got hit probably 6 million times. I played Pop Warner football. It's something I'm accustomed to. Getting knocked to the ground is like walking to me. It's nothing."
But if last week's 26-10 victory over the Dolphins in Miami is any indication, Vick's game is changing. He ran only twice against the Dolphins, for 9 yards. In his last game before the injury, Vick carved up Arizona for 79 yards on eight carries.
Staying in the pocket didn't keep him off the ground. The Dolphins sacked Vick four times.
"I can tolerate it," he said. "Each and every day I throw, it gets a little better."
Vick enjoyed a career renaissance in 2010, establishing career highs in almost every category and winning the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award. The Eagles rewarded him with a six-year, $100-million contract, almost $40 million of which is guaranteed.
Now his numbers are down across the board. Vick's interceptions have doubled from six to 12. Last season, he rushed for nine touchdowns. This year, he has zero.
His struggles have mirrored those of the Eagles, whose "dream team" season has been derailed by injuries and underperformance. Somehow, however, they remain mathematically alive. If the Eagles (5-8) win out and the Giants and Cowboys lose twice each, the NFC East title would go to Philadelphia.
Those slim playoff hopes rest on Vick's shoulders. Shoulders that, if his coaches get their way, will remain upright and off the turf.
"There's a fine line there of taking away someone's competitive spirit and getting him to slide," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "I figure by the time he's about 43, I'll have that figured out for him."