PHILADELPHIA — Players on the Philadelphia Eagles feel the same urgency to win as their coach.
Owner Jeffrey Lurie made it clear last week that Andy Reid isn't guaranteed to return next season for his 15th year unless the Eagles win now. Whether that means the Eagles must win a Super Bowl is unclear. Regardless, the message has filtered down to Michael Vick and the rest of his teammates.
"We feel like there is a need to win, and win quickly," Vick said Monday. "Coach Reid talked to us today about staying the course, maintaining our focus, going in there week in and week out, and controlling what we can control. We can sit and talk all day until our faces turn blue, but until we go out there, we still have to make it happen."
The first test for the Eagles is Sunday at Cleveland. Vick will be ready to go despite taking just 12 snaps in the preseason and missing the final two games with injured ribs.
Vick took all the reps with the starters in the first practice back after a weekend off. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback is eager to make throws that count in games that matter.
"I felt great at practice," he said. "My arm felt fresh and my legs felt good. I threw the ball really well, and I had a chance to make some throws that I haven't made in a long time. It felt good to be back and I'm extremely excited."
The Eagles were a major disappointment last season, going 8-8 in a year that began with high expectations. They won their last four games, albeit against lesser opponents, and hope to carry that momentum into Week 1 against the Browns.
"It's better to end the season with wins than with losses," Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin said.
Then again, it was nine months ago.
"It's a year's time," Vick said. "We went through that, and we know what we have to fight through and how tough it was. That was one of the reasons we were able to excel late in the season last year because our backs were pretty much against the wall. It's the same right now."
Not many teams enter a season with a desperate attitude, even in a sport where there's only 16 games and they all mean something. But these Eagles realize they could be running out of time. If they don't win and save Reid's job, there could be massive changes next year.
Reid has led the Eagles to nine playoff appearances in 13 seasons, but they haven't won a playoff game since 2008. Vick hasn't won one since 2004 when he played for Atlanta.
"In 2010, we made it and it was sort of a different season," Vick said. "We wanted to win, and it was just like it suddenly happened and we were in the playoffs. I don't think we took it for granted, and we just didn't seize the moment. Now, it's all about seizing the moment, getting an opportunity and taking full advantage of it. As a team, we just want to put ourselves in a position to compete. I think that's where it all starts. Our short-term goals are to be the best that we can be, week in and week out, and that's how we'll advance to the postseason."
If Vick stays healthy, the offense should produce. The defense has to do its part, though.
Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo begins his second year after switching over from offense. He has two new linebackers that should help the back seven improve. The defensive line flourished last year under position coach Jim Washburn, and he has two talented rookies to make it even better.
"I think with the additions we've got with DeMeco Ryans and rookies like (Mychal) Kendricks really stepping up, and the secondary really improving during the offseason and in the preseason, the d-line entering its second year with Wash, there's really no room for excuses," Babin said. "It's all on us, and we're happy to have it that way."
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