FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Michael Vick walked off the MetLife Stadium field four weeks ago unsure if he had blown his chance.
The New York Jets quarterback struggled after going in against the Buffalo Bills to replace Geno Smith, who threw interceptions on three consecutive possessions in the first quarter. Vick finished the game, but had three turnovers of his own as the Jets fell 43-23.
"The only thing I could think about was all of the mistakes that I made," Vick said Wednesday. "Was I going to get an opportunity to do it again? I kind of felt like I would because there were some good things that I did, but ultimately the turnovers overruled everything."
With Smith mistake-prone and ineffective in his second season, the Jets turned to Vick the following week to make his first start against Kansas City. He was solid, with no turnovers in a 24-10 loss, and then got the call again in New York's last game, a 20-13 win over Pittsburgh in which Vick again played turnover-free football.
He's now preparing to make his third straight start for the Jets, this time at snow-bound Buffalo. And he has a chance to make up for that previous performance against the Bills.
"I think you have to take away all of the positives that you can from the game," Vick said. "We were in the game and we put ourselves in a position to win the game, but it was all about turnovers. I think you can go through it and hope that it's not going to be the same."
Vick has undeniably given the Jets' offense a spark, coupled with the addition of wide receiver Percy Harvin. However, with New York sitting at 2-8, Rex Ryan might wonder what might have been had he pulled Smith earlier in favor of the 34-year-old veteran.
"You can easily say, 'Oh, well, we should've done this,' now," Ryan said. "At the same time, I was comfortable in my decision, not just with Michael, but with the other ones as well. So, I'm not going to spend time looking back."
Neither is Vick, even if he knows his days as a starting quarterback in the league might be numbered. He has learned to better appreciate these moments as a player.
"I've embraced each and every day, and not just the games, not the practices, the meetings, the travel, the preparation, but everything that came along with it," he said.
"I didn't know if I was going to ever have this chance again. I just don't want to let my teammates down. I don't want to let myself down. I set high expectations for myself and I'm just trying to fulfill that and have fun doing that at the same time."
Vick has said all season that he believes he has plenty of football left in him. He has shown flashes of the player that once was the most dynamic in the NFL, a dual-threat quarterback with a big arm and running ability that could send knee-buckled and embarrassed defenders to the turf as he ran by them.
As he waited and watched from the sideline, Vick missed being out there. He understood his role as a backup and mentor to Smith, but that didn't mean he was content to be a bystander.
That's why he has worked so hard the past few weeks to be ready, and to take care of the football. Injuries and ball security have always been the knocks on Vick's game. So far, so good for Vick in those two areas as the Jets' starter.
"The one thing that sets Mike back is if he turns the ball over," Ryan said. "He's had some turnover issues in his career. The one skillset that he offers is outstanding, but he knows if he takes care of that football, we'll be tough to beat."
Vick said turnovers are "all mental," in that if you focus on the little things — something he acknowledged he didn't do when he first came in against Buffalo — it will help limit mistakes.
"I've turned the ball over in the past, but I never felt like I was a guy who would come out and throw three picks in a game," he said. "Playing this position is hard. Things happen. I'm not perfect. I did a lot of good things and a lot of things, I didn't do so well. I just keep plugging away, keep going and I know how to go out and play the game and I know what it takes to win.
"I know if you turn the ball over you're not going to win. That's always in the front of my mind, trying to make sure that happens."
NOTES: DE Muhammad Wilkerson and TE Jace Amaro returned to practice after missing Monday with illnesses. ... CB Darrin Walls (calf) and S Jaiquawn Jarrett (calf) were limited, but Ryan thinks both will play.
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