PHILADELPHIA - Michael Vick's quest to make it through an entire regular season unscathed will get quite a test this year.
The NFL has announced it will be loosening the rules regarding protecting the quarterback if he's executing a read-option offense.
Defenders will be permitted to hit him if he's involved in carrying out fakes or is running with the football. Vick and Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, who will be facing each other in Monday's season-opener at FedEx Field, will both be operating the read-option offense also known as the "Pistol."
"Any quarterback has to be prepared for hits if they're carrying out fakes," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Wednesday. "That's just the rule of the game. If they're handing it off and carrying out a bootleg fake, those guys just have to be make sure they're aware they can be hit.
"We've talked to Mike about that and he's
prepared for it. He understands that people are going to run at him when he's carrying out fakes. But I think that's the same thing for any quarterback. That's the same thing for 'RG3,' too."
Vick, who is entering his 10th NFL season, has been hampered by injuries during his career.
Since becoming the Eagles' starting quarterback in 2010, he has missed 12 of 48 regular-season games - he was also demoted for a game last season - because of various ailments. In 2010 and 2011, he was sidelined by broken ribs. Last season, he sat out five games after sustaining a concussion.
Now there will be more risk because of the change in offenses. The Eagles will be running the ever-popular read-option offense after years of using former coach Andy Reid's version of the West Coast offense.
"It's football," Vick said Wednesday. "And in football, you get hit. If you go into games with the mindset that it's going to happen, it makes it a lot easier to go out and play the game without worrying about it."
That's a turnaround from 2011, when both Vick and Reid complained to the league about the hits Vick was taking after he sustained a concussion and a bone bruise in his hand.
This year, Vick has taken precautions.
The 33-year-old is expected to wear a protective vest again this season. He also did his best to improve his durability during the recent offseason. He underwent a rigorous training regimen that added four pounds of muscle to his 6-foot frame without sacrificing any speed.
Vick's ability to outrun defenders could prove invaluable.
"They've got to catch you first (before defenders can hit you), right?" Kelly said. "So after you carry out your fake, run really fast."
When healthy, Griffin is every bit as fast, if not faster, than Vick. But his speed may not be there right away after undergoing reconstructive surgery to repair torn knee ligaments in the offseason.
As a precaution, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan did not permit Griffin to play in any of the team's four preseason games. But since Griffin was cleared to play against the Eagles over the weekend, Shanahan has no plans to revise the Redskins' offense to protect him.
"The only way I would start a quarterback is if he's ready to go," Shanahan said Wednesday in a phone interview. "Robert's in excellent shape and I think he's ready to play."
Griffin enjoyed a fantastic rookie season in 2012, throwing for 3,200 yards with 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. He also rushed for 815 yards and seven TDs on 120 carries.
Expect more of the same on Monday night.
"You've got to be careful when you talk about targeting quarterbacks," Griffin said Wednesday in a phone interview. "That sounds like a bounty to me. Running has always been a big part of my game and that's never going away."
Extra points: The Eagles filled out their eight-man practice squad by signing former Raiders and Chiefs defensive end Brandon Bair. Bair played for Kelly at Oregon, making him one of five players on the Eagles regular roster or practice squad who played for the Ducks. He joins safety Patrick Chung, wide receiver Jeff Maehl, linebacker Casey Matthews and offensive lineman Isaac Remington. Bair and Remington are on the practice squad.
Kelly insisted their backgrounds at Oregon did not factor into his decision to have them on his team.
"If we were going to sing the Oregon fight song it would help," Kelly said. "But otherwise no. Our decisions were all about special teams. There are three ways to make this team: special teams, special teams and special teams."
Kelly announced Wednesday that Nate Allen will be the starting safety against the Redskins, but rookie Earl Wolff will also get a lot of playing time. Wolf said he expected to get at least as many snaps as Allen. ... Tackle Dennis Kelly (back surgery) and cornerback Brandon Hughes (broken hand) did not practice Wednesday and will not play against the Redskins.
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