At the end of Michael Vick's first week of practice as the Jets' starting quarterback, his teammates refrained from hoisting him onto their shoulders and proclaiming him the savior for a 1-7 team. Members of the Jets' malfunctioning offense were mindful not to offend recently deposed starter Geno Smith.
The operative word to characterize the quarterback change was "spark." Rookie tight end Jace Amaro might have offered the strongest endorsement of the move, saying: "You've got to rally around something. We're hoping he can bring a spark to our team and get our offense to where we think it can go."
A seven-game losing streak has a way of tamping down expectations and enthusiasm, but the locker-room commentary on Vick's practice week seemed to offer some hope for Sunday's game at Kansas City.
"He looked good," guard Willie Colon said of Vick. "He commanded the huddle. Everything was crisp and clean. The receivers seemed to be getting in and out of their routes. We've just got to execute and do our job up front . . . Hopefully, he's the spark we need and we come out with a 'W.' "
Certainly, adjustments must be made. The most obvious is that Vick is lefthanded, so passes spin in the opposite direction of those thrown by Smith. Similarly, the offensive line must be aware of where Vick sets up and which way he prefers to slide.
Then there's Vick's ability to scramble, making something out of nothing with his feet or buying time to find open receivers. "The big asset he brings is that he can extend plays and run," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "You've got to stay alive as receivers."
When Vick replaced Smith in the first quarter of a 43-23 loss to Buffalo last Sunday, he generated a 17-point surge to pull within 24-17, but his two fumbles and interception short-circuited the comeback. Some Jets suggested first-team practice reps would make the difference and pointed to how effective Vick was in the "quick game" on their final TD drive in garbage time.
"It helps everybody out," Colon said of the hurry-up style. "It gives us a chance up front as far as understanding the ball's not going to be back there forever. He's getting it out of his hands, and the receivers get a chance to catch and get YAC [yards after the catch]."
Amaro said Vick was efficient in the "quick game" last week because he had played in the same system under offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg with the Eagles. "He just gets the ball out really quick, and he puts it on the spot every time," Amaro said. "So I think we feel really good about him. Everyone is really excited about him starting the game and seeing how he can take it over, starting from 0-0 instead of when we're down big."
The newest Jet, wide receiver Percy Harvin, might be happiest of all to see Vick. Harvin struggled to find chemistry with Smith early in his first game after being obtained in a trade with the Seahawks, but Harvin understands that short, quick passes from Vick give him a chance to break big plays.
"He looks sharp right now," said Harvin, who said he took plenty of first-team reps this week. "He's dropping back and sitting in the pocket, delivering the ball on time. Right now, I think the timing is pretty good, and I think Vick is looking really strong."