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Vick needs to be strong to handle this week

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 15, 2001


The next six days may be the longest of Michael Vick's young life.

Six days for the former Virginia Tech quarterback to wonder whether he'll be looking at the rest of the NFL from ground zero, namely San Diego, or from some better perch in Atlanta, Carolina, maybe even Detroit, all of which have quarterback concerns as the 2001 season approaches.

The Chargers, thanks to their one-win season in 2000, have the No. 1 pick Saturday. They already have signed 38-year-old free agent Doug Flutie. If they're going to pick a quarterback in the first round, they'd prefer to do a better job than they did in 1998. They had the No. 2 pick then.

You remember Ryan Leaf, don't you?

They'd also prefer to know that Vick, who played only two Hokie seasons, is capable of running an NFL offense. This month, Chargers offensive coordinator Norv Turner put Vick through two hours in a classroom instruction and one hour studying videotapes, then had Vick run the plays he was taught.

"I told him that I love watching him play," Flutie said after Vick began a weekend visit to San Diego. "I love his aggressiveness and the way he can run with the ball. He's got some phenomenal skills. He's exciting to watch. From a team standpoint, I would love to see him here."

The Falcons, picking fifth, might be interested in putting together a package to pick Vick and give him a season to learn under the tutelage of 35-year-old Chris Chandler, currently the NFL's concussion king with the retirement of Dallas' Troy Aikman.

The Panthers, having released 36-year-old Steve Beuerlein following a 7-9 finish, might try to make the leap from No. 11 in the first round. At the moment, Carolina's starter is Jeff Lewis. In four seasons with the Broncos and Panthers, Lewis has appeared in 12 games, all as a backup.

"That's part of the excitement and joy of all this," Vick said. "(Saturday,) knowing you've worked so hard, it's still a gamble where you're going to go."

This also is the first San Diego draft for former Bills general manager John Butler.

"We're still working on everything, unforeseen things," he said. "You never know what may happen right up until the very end. ... I've been to a lot of drafts. I've seen some strange things happen."

Purdue's Drew Brees likely will be the second quarterback taken, a mid-to-late first-round selection. There is concern about his arm strength and whether he's got the physical attributes to become a star in the NFL. There's also the matter of his height -- although he and Vick are 6-footers and there don't seem to be too many Vick doubters.

WHO'S YOUR NO. 1?: It appears Trent Green will spend yet another season as Kurt Warner's backup in St. Louis unless something shakes loose in Kansas City.

With Elvis Grbac gone, the Chiefs' starter is Todd Collins, who hasn't played a down in the three years he has been their No. 3 quarterback. And he's backed up by Gus Ornstein, who has bounced around a few training camps.

So the Chiefs are interested in Green, but they say they won't cough up what the Rams want, their first-round and third-round picks.

"I've only traded our first-round pick once and that was for a guy named Joe, and we got a third-round pick in return," Chiefs president Carl Peterson said.

You remember Joe Montana, don't you?

FAMILY MAN: Herman Edwards has learned his lessons well. He played under Dick Vermeil at Philadelphia and was a Bucs assistant coach under Tony Dungy, coaches who believe their relationship with their players should extend beyond the field, clubhouse and training rooms. Now the Jets' new coach is connecting on a personal level with his players.

He has been meeting with them one-on-one, talking "not about football, but just about who they are, some of their goals they want to achieve, about their families, where they grew up, how they see themselves at this point of their careers. ...

"Sometimes," Edwards said, "coaches worry about getting too close to their players because then, all of a sudden, you get labeled. "Oh, he's a players' coach.' Well, what is a players' coach? You're a players' coach in the fact that when your players can talk to you off the field, it's not about football."

SHARPER IMAGES: Linebacker Jamie Sharper re-signed with the Ravens for $22.5-million, including a $2.5-million signing bonus. That's not bad ... but not as good as his big brother Darren, a safety who re-signed with the Packers for $30-million, including a $7-million signing bonus.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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