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Vick Finds Silver Lining

Surgery isn't planned for Falcon star, who suffered a broken leg Saturday and likely will miss at least six weeks.

August 18, 2003|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

We've seen Michael Vick run.

Now, we'll get to see him rush.

The pressure is on Atlanta's star quarterback to recover quickly and fully from a broken right leg he sustained Saturday night in an exhibition game against Baltimore. Vick, the centerpiece in the resurgence of the Falcons, probably is going to miss at least six weeks, meaning he would have to sit out regular-season games against Dallas and Washington, and NFC South rivals Tampa Bay and Carolina.

So far, it looks as if Vick might be able to avoid surgery. Dr. Andrew Bishop, the Falcon team physician, said Sunday the fibula break is "very clean" and does not appear to involve ligaments.

"We don't know for certain," Bishop said. "No MRI or test will tell you how much damage there is [to ligaments]. If there is significant damage, then we would expect the two bones [tibia and fibula] in the next 10 days to two weeks to migrate laterally."

If that happened, the injury would require surgery. The plan now, though, calls for Vick to wear a cast -- first a solid one, then a removable one -- and to receive physical therapy. Anything to shorten the recovery time while not putting the career of an immeasurably valuable player at risk.

"Uncomplicated bone healing takes about six weeks," Bishop said. "That just means the bone is healed, it does not necessarily mean that everything else is as it should be. We don't know. It may be as little as six weeks that he will be back playing football at full speed. We'll just have to wait and see."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a poll Sunday on its Web site asking readers how long the Falcons will last without Vick, and 66% of respondents said the team can wait no longer than the Oct. 19 game against the New Orleans Saints -- whom Vick beat twice last season -- or that the Falcons cannot win without Vick.

Philadelphia Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb suffered a similar leg fracture last season and missed two months. But Oakland cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Tory James sat out only three games each because of broken fibulas. Both had metal plates in their legs when they played in the Super Bowl.

"When you're rushing to come back, you can do a lot of things," Raider safety Rod Woodson said. "But you can only come back as fast as your leg allows. I wish [Vick] luck. It's really unfortunate, because he had such a bright future this season."

Former San Francisco 49er coach Bill Walsh, considered among the best quarterback coaches ever, said the Falcons should resist the temptation to go to Vick prematurely.

"That's the last thing you want to do with an athlete like that is to put him on the field too early," Walsh said. "We did that with Jerry Rice a few years ago after he had knee surgery, and the results were disastrous."

A speedy return by Vick is not only important to the Falcons but to the NFL. He's widely considered the league's most exciting player, and, according to SportScanINFO, his jersey is the third-best seller in the U.S. behind those of Michael Jordan and Cleveland Cavalier rookie LeBron James.

Word of Vick's injury spread rapidly throughout the NFL on Saturday night, with many players learning the news in the midst of their own exhibition games.

"It's a shame because he's a great player and a good kid," New Orleans Coach Jim Haslett said. "The league counts on him to be one of their cornerstones.

"He's their signature player, I guess. He's one of those guys who the league wants to make a living off of."

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