Since returning to the NFL in 2009 Michael Vick has said and done the right things. But the battering he’s taken from pass rushers – and the changes in his game – cast doubt on his football future. Dating back to 2010, including one playoff game, Vick is a respectable 18–16 as Philadelphia’s starter, but in his last 24 starts he’s gone 10–14 with 25 interceptions and 11 lost fumbles. He’s suffered an array of injuries and missed seven starts since ’10. Now, writes Matt Gagne, it’s possible that he will miss one more, next Sunday at Washington.
One Eagle said of a particularly hard hit on Vick, “Peyton Manning would have seen that coming” (page 65).
NOTE: This player’s poll appears in the Dec. 12, 2011, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now.
Which team’s fans are the toughest to play in front of?
- Philadelphia Eagles….20%
- Pittsburgh Steelers….17%
- Oakland Raiders….13%
- Seattle Seahawks….8%
- New Orleans Saints….6%
[Based on 321 NFL players who responded to SI’s survey]
FAST FACTS: Over the past 10 seasons the Patriots have more home wins (65) than any other team, but they finished just 16th in the voting with 1.6%…. Conversely, the poll-topping Eagles have 48 victories in that period, tied for ninth…. QBs particularly loathed playing in Seattle and Oakland (tied at 26%)…. The NFC East was voted the toughest host division (25% of the total vote); the AFC East was voted the easiest (4%).
SI PLAYERS NFL POLL (as it appears in the Oct. 31 issue)
Who is the fastest player in football?
- Chris Johnson, Titans RB….38%
- DeSean Jackson, Eagles WR….23%
- Mike Wallace, Steelers WR….12%
- Devin Hester, Bears WR/KR….3%
- Jacoby Ford, Raiders WR….3%
[Based on 316 NFL players who responded to SI’s survey]
FAST FACTS: Johnson ran a 4.24-second 40-yard dash at the NFL draft combine in 2008, the fastest mark since times became official, in 1999. Ford’s time at the 2010 combine (4.28) tied him with three other players as the second-fastest…. Michael Vick, who was voted No. 1 the last time SI polled on this subject, in 2006, was No. 6 (2%), even at age 31, and was the only QB to receive more than one vote…. Colts DE Dwight Freeney was the only lineman named more than once.
Also in this week’s Oct. 24 issue: Dan Wheldon in memoriam, Plaxico Burress sounds off on the NFL’s illegal hits, Jaromir Jagr’s return from Siberian exile and the soon-to-be winningest QB in college football historyPosted: October 19, 2011
You’ve seen the two covers for this week’s issue and our World Series prediction as well as details from Gary Smith’s interview with Jerry West, who discussed in great detail the depression that plagued him throughout his Hall of Fame career and most of his life. Here is what else readers will find in this week’s Oct. 24 issue, on newsstands now.
DAN WHELDON: 1978–2011 – LARS ANDERSON (@LarsAndersonSI)
Two-time Indy 500 champ Dan Wheldon’s future seemed bright on Sunday morning, when the 33-year-old signed a contract to race for Andretti Autosport in 2012. Hours later, just 11 laps into the season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Wheldon was dead, killed in a 15-car wreck. Series champion Dario Franchitti said afterward, “One minute you’re joking around at driver intros—the next, Dan’s gone. I’m struggling to get it together.” When the day ended with a low-speed, five-lap tribute to Wheldon, IndyCar’s season came to an end—and the sport had lost one of its most popular, most engaging drivers (page 56).
On the Tablets: A slideshow of highlights from Dan Wheldon’s career on the IndyCar circuit.
SCORECARD: LEARNING TO PLAY NICE – DAMON HACK (@si_damonhack)
From a numbers standpoint, the response to the NFL’s Black Sunday—Oct. 17, 2010, when three players were concussed on violent hits—has been effective. The number of fines for illegal hits is down, and no suspensions have been handed out. But the NFL has not completely gotten through to players. To wit (page 15):
- Jets receiver Plaxico Burress: “If you have a chance to knock me out or break my leg, man, knock me out. That’s missing a game or two, not the whole season. As receivers, we know what we signed up for.”
- Bears safety Brandon Meriweather, who has been fined $95,000 for illegal hits since the start of last season: “They teach you growing up that you’ve got to be violent and put the fear of God in people, but when you get to the league that you’ve been dreaming about your whole life, they tell you to change your game 100 percent or get money taken from you. I try lowering my target zone, but if you have a receiver who’s 5′ 8″, it’s still going to be a helmet-to-helmet collision. How do you avoid that when you’re running full speed?”
- Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop, recalling a clear shot he had on Matt Ryan in Week 5: “I didn’t quite know how to hit him. I didn’t want to hit him too high, when it should be natural to just go hit him. I ended up getting the sack, but I didn’t hit him as hard as I wanted to.”
New Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha graces the cover of this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated, dated Aug. 8 and on newsstands tomorrow, with the billing “Philly Lands the Biggest Prize.” It is the 15th time the Eagles have appeared on the cover and the first since Michael Vick was on the Nov. 29, 2010, issue.
There was speculation beforehand that Asomugha would go to the Texans, Jets or Cowboys, but as he told senior writer Damon Hack (@si_damonhack), the Eagles were his top choice all along. Asomugha says (page 32): “We looked at every single situation and circumstance, and the Eagles always came out on top. Once they jumped in — and it was stealth — they were aggressive. It’s what you want.”