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Eagles deny 'conspiracy theory' over Vick's health

geoff mosher csnphilly

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 06:38 PM

Mosher

Eagles deny 'conspiracy theory' over Vick's health

November 30, 2012, 3:57 pm

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Eagles officials on Friday blasted an ESPN report that suggested the team was intentionally keeping Michael Vick sidelined to further evaluate rookie Nick Foles and another report that the Eagles' quarterback’s condition had worsened.

Head trainer Rick Burkholder told reporters that Vick had hit a plateau at stage four in the concussion recovery program. The quarterback has failed several consecutive baseline tests that measure brain function post-concussion compared to pre-concussion.

Burkholder said Vick is still experiencing symptoms in phase four that affect eye movement, visual tracking and balance, setbacks that are linked to the failed tests.

“There are some reports that Michael took a step back or is not doing as well. That’s not true,” Burkholder said. “Michael has hit a plateau. When you get into a phase and hit a certain activity sometimes they get symptoms. We’re in phase four right now.”

Vick and running back LeSean McCoy were each ruled out for Sunday’s nationally televised game against the Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. Foles, a third-round pick, will make his third start in Vick’s place.

Vick must advance through all five stages of the team’s concussion rehabilitation program and be cleared by an independent neurologist before he can return to the field.

Speculation over Vick’s future has intensified during the Eagles’ seven-game losing streak. With the Eagles at 3-8, head coach Andy Reid expected to be fired after the season and with Vick slated to make $16.5 million next season, it would make sense if the organization wanted Foles to start the final five games of the season to see if the former Arizona standout has the makeup to be the centerpiece of the team’s offense going forward.

Reid has said that Vick would reclaim the starting job once he’s medically cleared to play. But ESPN, citing anonymous sources, reported that Vick believes to be the victim of front-office politics.

Reid said he has spoken with Vick and didn’t get the impression that his quarterback is feeling undercut by the coaches or front office.

“I’ve talked with Michael and Michael is good. I don’t know where things get started but Michael is fine with it,” Reid said. “He understands that everything is in the best interest of him right now and making sure that he’s ready to go.”

Burkholder insisted that there is “no conspiracy” to intentionally slow-play Vick’s return for the sake of evaluating Foles. He said the results are immediately sent to board-certified neurologists at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for grading and then returned.

“Listen, there are no conspiracies here,” he said. “We don’t grade the ImPACT test, which he has not gotten back to baseline [on]. I send that paper from the computer off to the people in Pittsburgh. They come back and say he’s not past baseline. That’s an NFL rule.

“That has nothing to do with anything with us. He’s got to pass that before he can ever entertain the fact of him playing, so I don’t know where that came from. As the gatekeeper of these guys, he’s not going to play until he gets past baseline and gets through the five phases.”

Vick, who hasn’t been available to the media since he sustained the concussion Nov. 11 against Dallas, released a statement that didn’t specifically address the ESPN report or his feelings about the recovery process, although it did say he appreciated the “the support of the entire Eagles organization.”

“I feel strong and healthy,” the statement said “ As a professional athlete, I want to play in every game but the NFL has a specific protocol to protect players. My focus is to complete this process successfully, so I can rejoin my team on the field.”

Burkholder said the NFL has never asked to see a player’s concussion test results but would have access if wanted.

“Listen, we’re all schooled together, the 32 head athletic trainers, the 32 doctors. We all meet together at the [NFL Scouting] combine [every February]. There is nobody that’s going to put themselves out there -- any doctor, any athletic trainer, anything like that -- that where a player isn’t back to normal are we going to put him out there. That would be foolish.”

Burkholder was asked if the recent increase in league concern over concussions enables NFL teams to intentionally slow the process of getting an athlete back on the field.

“No, that’s not happening here. I don’t know about other teams. I know what we do,” he said. “There’s no conspiracy here. There’s no slow-playing Mike. He’s not back to baseline on the ImPACT test. What other teams do, I can’t answer.”

Burkholder said Vick would undergo another ImPACT test on Monday and he expects the test results to be improved based on the most recent rehab plan. Burkholder has specifically worked with Vick on eye movement and balance issues that he said had affected test results. Vick had tested below baseline on three consecutive exams, which prompted Burkholder to consult with the officials in Pittsburgh.

“The reason the reaction time is at that level and we just can’t get that back to baseline is because he can’t track with his eyes quite as well,” Burkholder said. “It’s like I told Mike, it’s like an ankle sprain. An ankle sprain you can get everything back but you’ve lost that little step.

“There is a little program we do on the computer to train him. He seemed to do better [Friday]. He did better [Thursday] so he’s making progress.”

Burkholder said concussion sufferers worldwide don’t typically plateau at stage four but the same standard doesn’t apply to professional athletes.

“I think you’ve got athletes in this town that have taken this long,” he said “Maybe not with us but you’ve had athletes in this town that have taken a while to get back. Whenever he gets better, he gets better. And once he’s better, that’s up to the coach [to play him].”

As for McCoy, Burkholder said the Pro Bowl halfback has advanced to stage two of the concussion program and is almost symptom-free.

“His major complaint is fatigue, but he’s going through the program,” he said. “He’s done very well on the ImPACT test. The only reason we won’t say that he passed the ImPACT test is because he has symptoms, but all the other stuff checked out.”

E-mail Geoff Mosher at gmosher@comcastsportsnet.com