FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Michael Vick sat at his locker, quietly shaking his head in frustration. Four days after the Jets' humiliating 31-0 loss to the Chargers in San Diego, Vick still was simmering over his role in the debacle.
"I've been playing that game in my mind all week,'' said the 34-year-old backup, who took over after Geno Smith was yanked at halftime with the Jets trailing 21-0. "I expect to play at a high level. Whenever I step on the field, I expect to do great things. Maybe that's far-fetched, but that's my expectation. I'm just trying to figure out a way.''
Vick did no better than Smith in his two quarters, completing 8 of 19 passes for 47 yards and failing to score.
The Broncos are next on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, and even though Smith continues to be the starter, Vick understands there could be more work ahead, especially if Smith can't pull himself out of his funk. And although Vick may have been clumsy on Wednesday in explaining why he was off against the Chargers, he wanted to set the record straight that he was not being negligent in his preparation.
"Maybe I didn't prepare or I wasn't prepared, but I'll tell you what, it won't happen again,'' Vick told reporters Wednesday. "I learned a lesson last week: Always stay ready, always be prepared.''
He understands how that might be taken the wrong way, but he did not mean to say he was not paying attention in practice or in the video room. It was more a matter of being frustrated with his inability to move the ball when he did get the chance. "I know what I said and I know it might have been taken out of context. I can see that,'' he said. "But it's just me taking responsibility. I tried to make that clear.''
Vick is in the admittedly uncomfortable role of understudy after nearly an entire career of being the unquestioned No. 1.
"This is all new to me, so bear with me,'' he said. "But I'll figure it out. I'm just hard on myself. I expect a lot out of myself, that's the bottom line.''
How will he go about his job the rest of the season, even if he never steps on the field again? It starts with an attitude adjustment that he said begins against the Broncos. "I've got to go into this game feeling like I'm the starter at all times,'' he said. "Even when the game starts, when they're out there playing, I have to feel like I'm the starting quarterback for this football team. I'm trying to figure out a way, and I'm going to do that. I'm going to figure this out.''
The Jets are stubbornly sticking with Smith even though his play has deteriorated to the point that he has become a liability. He appeared to take a step forward during the preseason, showing a much greater ease in executing Marty Mornhinweg's offense, but turnovers and accuracy issues have plagued him.
The Jets continue to give Smith all the practice reps with the first-team offense, leaving Vick to share scout-team duties with Matt Simms, who is on the practice squad. "This is what I signed up for, so I accept that responsibility,'' Vick said. "I'm never going to make an excuse for it. I'm a professional quarterback. I just know that when I step on the field, I'm going to find some type of way to get into a rhythm, because that's what football is all about at the quarterback position.''
If Vick does get more playing time, that can only mean that Smith is continuing his poor play or has suffered an injury, neither of which Vick wants to see happen. But he will take the lessons of what happened in San Diego and avoid a similar scenario if he's called on again. "Getting reps would help, but unfortunately, that's not the way this situation is going to play out,'' he said. "If I have to get extra throws out of practice or more throws with the scout team, I'll do that.''
Vick could start getting those extra throws in live action. If Smith continues to sputter, there's no reason to prolong his misery, especially given his fragile state of mind after a month's worth of losses, a postgame rant at a fan that was caught on camera and a missed team meeting the day before Sunday's meltdown in San Diego.
If the Jets do call on Vick, he promises this time he'll be up to the challenge. "It's all within myself, just going on the field and believing,'' he said. "That's the only way I can fix it.''