Should NFL Referees Throw More Penalty Flags For Michael Vick?
In his eyes, he’s been getting treated unfairly by the zebras since the beginning of last season when he took over the starting quarterback role for the Philadelphia Eagles. While other NFL quarterbacks get babied by the referees and often get 15-yard roughing the passer penalties in their favor, Vick feels like he doesn’t get the same treatment. Instead, he feels as though players on opposing teams are allowed to hit him at will on the field—even if he doesn’t have the ball in his hands. And after sustaining a bad bruise on his right hand yesterday following a hit from New York Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty—just one week after suffering a concussion in a game against the Atlanta Falcons—Vick is finally speaking up about it.
“Looking at the replays, I’m on the ground every time, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated,” he said after the game on Sunday. “The refs have got to do their jobs. And I mentioned it to the refs in training camp when I talked to them. I’m on the ground constantly, all the time. Every time I throw the ball, I’m on the ground. And I don’t know why I don’t get the 15-yard flags like everybody else.”
On the one hand, Vick has a point. If you’ve sat down and watched even just a quarter of an Eagles game this season, you’ve undoubtedly seen Vick get hit and get hit hard. Whether he’s running for a first down or letting the ball loose, Vick takes his fair share of hard hits during a game. He’s so elusive with the football that teams don’t want to take a chance that he might slip away from them and create a big play, so they make sure that they knock him down whenever they can. However, that often results in Vick getting slammed to the turf. For other QBs around the NFL, that would result in a penalty against the other team. For Vick, it’s just another play that ends up with him flat on his back.
On the other hand, Vick has a tendency to hold onto the football for a long time when the Eagles have the ball. He can literally turn a 10-yard loss into a 60-yard touchdown scamper, so he keeps the ball in his hand until the last possible second. His elusiveness makes it easy for him to escape the grasp of defenders. It’s good for the Eagles when it works, but teams have started to combat that by putting a hit on him whenever they can, regardless of whether or not they think they have him contained. They’ve been burned by Vick in the past and they don’t want to take any chances. So whether he likes it or not, Vick is taking shots that many other quarterbacks wouldn’t have to take. It’s the only way teams can stop him.
Does that make what’s happening to Vick right? Not by a long shot. NFL referees need to keep their eyes peeled and make sure they’re calling things fairly when Vick is playing. If he gets hit late, they need to pull their yellow flags out and make a call. But Vick also needs to realize that if he wants to run all over the field and get rid of the ball at the last possible second, he’s likely going to get popped early and often. By doing so, he’s putting himself at risk for injury and he’s trusting the refs to make split-second decisions as to whether or not Vick is getting hit legally. So he needs to make quicker decisions himself in order to avoid those situations. And if he thinks he’s getting hit late, he needs to tell the referees on the field right there and then and not wait for a post-game press conference to express his frustrations.
It’s not going to be easy for Vick to get referees to change the way they make calls for and against him. It’s also not going to be easy for him to change the way he plays the game. So it’s going to be difficult overall for him to get referees to throw more penalty flags for him. But if he wants to last until the end of this season—let alone the next five seasons—something’s gotta give. And at this point in time, it falls on Vick to either force refs to change the way they see things or do what he needs to do in order to get rid of the football more quickly. Either way, it looks like it’s going to be a long season for Vick. And this won’t be the last time we hear him complaining about the guys in black and white.