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Michael Vick is a happy camper

Jets quarterback Michael Vick signs autographs after training

Jets quarterback Michael Vick signs autographs after training camp in Cortland Saturday, July 26, 2014. Credit: Hans Pennink

CORTLAND, N.Y. - Michael Vick was looking good and having fun, perhaps more than he ever expected at this stage of his career.

Vick was in Day 3 of the Jets pseudo-quarterback competition, the one in which he gets a fraction of the first-team reps that second-year quarterback Geno Smith gets but still is said by Jets to be in contention for the starting job.

On Saturday, in the team's first practice in pads, Smith took 16 snaps with the first team while Vick was limited to three.

Still, Vick was able to squeeze a lot out of his limited opportunity, and even zipped a few passes that had fans screaming out his name. Vick's most impressive completion of the day came in a 7-on-7 drill when he connected on a 50-yard touchdown pass to Clyde Gates, who beat Dee Milliner down the sideline. Overall, Vick was 6-for-7 on a day when a huge emphasis was being placed on the running game because of the addition of pads. Smith was 3-for-5 and was sacked once.

After three practices, Smith's rep count with the first team is 42 to Vick's 12.

"I'm cool with it," Vick said. "I understood the situation coming in. I knew it was Geno's job and my job to push Geno. The thing I'm going to be is, I'm going to be a guy that's going to be able to help Geno, but if this team needs me to play, I'm going to be ready to play."

One reason he is cool with it is that he genuinely seems to like the young player he is competing with. It's fair to say Vick sees something of his younger self in Smith.

Vick, who in 2001 became the first African-American quarterback to be taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, was playing for the Eagles three years ago when he first took note of Smith, who was at West Virginia. He called Smith's cellphone one day, introduced himself and offered some advice.

So Smith's mentorship role isn't exactly new. It's just that now he's getting paid to do it.

"Yeah, and I embrace it, I like it," Vick said. "It's cool and at the same time I get to better myself and my practices. I come in and I challenge myself to take advantage of every rep and be the best that I can be. Every practice, and that's the fun part about it so I've got two roles but it's easy. It's football. It's a game I love."

Smith said Vick has already given him some invaluable advice. "He's done a great job," he said. "It's not one of those things where he's trying to implement anything that I need to change or anything. Rather, just helping me with life lessons and learning from some of the things that he's done. He's been in this league 11 years. He's had his ups and downs.

"Everyone knows that quarterbacks, you're going to have a ton of those -- ups and downs, ups and downs. You've just got to stay levelheaded. That's the main thing that he talks about."

Levelheaded enough to know that just because he's limited to snaps in practice doesn't mean he won't be called upon to come up big during the regular season. As much as he likes this mentoring gig, he isn't ready to say he's entering a new phase of his career where teaching becomes more important that playing.

Said Vick: "I wouldn't say that. I have a lot of football left to play so I wouldn't take it that far. But if that's what it is now and the next couple years, we'll see. I know that I just want to keep playing good football."

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