Michael Vick still thinks of himself as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Not only that, the 34-year-old New York Jets backup feels he can still play for at least another two years. Where he'll be is the big question.
Vick is a free agent after this season, with his one-year deal with the Jets expiring. He hasn't ruled out returning to New York, but he didn't sound all that enthusiastic about the possibility, either.
''I don't know, I couldn't say right now,'' Vick said. ''I'd have to talk to my agent and see what's the best situation for me. Obviously, this organization has to do what's best for them. I really can't say right now, but hopefully I have a chance to play somewhere and continue to give that effort.''
Vick was signed last offseason to be a mentor to Geno Smith and provide the Jets with an experienced backup who was familiar with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's system. Smith started the season but struggled, and Vick stepped in and played OK in his three starts before the Jets went back to the second-year quarterback to finish the season.
He showed flashes of the Vick of old, particularly by making plays with his legs. He is 64 of 121 as a passer for 604 yards and three TDs with two interceptions. Vick is also fourth on the team in rushing with 153 yards on 26 carries despite limited action.
''I still feel like I can start,'' Vick said. ''I still feel like I can play at a high level. I think with the right talent around me and good structure, I feel like I can win some games. I still feel like I've got a lot left in the tank. I can't say it's five years' worth, but maybe it's a good, solid two.''
A large reason for the lukewarm feelings regarding the Jets could be the uncertainty around the organization. Coach Rex Ryan and his coaching staff, including Mornhinweg, could all be fired next week, along with general manager John Idzik.
''I think at the end of the day, my mindset is to just continue to play football,'' Vick said. ''I love the game. I want to continue to play until it's all out of me.''
NFL COCOON: Peyton Manning capped his weekly news conference by answering a question about new Colorado State football coach Mike Bobo, a former Georgia quarterback whom he faced in college.
''They had a lot of great players and Mike was a great leader, great SEC quarterback. We had some great battles, Tennessee and Georgia,'' Manning said.
He added that he got to see him in the fall when he attended the Tennessee-Georgia game during the Broncos' bye week.
After walking off the podium, Manning wondered aloud why Bobo's name had come up, seemingly out of the blue: ''Is he up for a job or something?'' Manning wondered.
Told he'd already been hired at CSU and that it had been in all the papers, Manning replied, ''Well, I wasn't too eager to read the newspaper Tuesday.''
Not after throwing four interceptions in a loss at Cincinnati on Monday night.
The laser-focused Manning was reminded that the following day was Christmas.
''Thanks, I knew that,'' he said with a chuckle as he spun and headed back into the locker room.
The former LSU teammates are leading candidates for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. They're also close friends.
''We talk to each other every day,'' Hill said. ''Really close relationship. We motivate each other. Each time I see him doing big things, it makes me want to elevate my game even more.
''We just push each other, man. That's the way it's been, especially in college when we were right next to each other. It would be back and forth the whole game.''
Hill could be considered the Bengals' most valuable player. Receiver A.J. Green has missed three complete games and most of two others because of toe and arm injuries. Running back Giovani Bernard was sidelined for three games with shoulder and hip injuries. Hill has led the offense in their absence, helping the Bengals (10-4-1) clinch a playoff spot as they head into their AFC North title showdown in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
''You look at how many games we didn't have A.J., he's kind of been a catalyst of where we are,'' left tackle Andrew Whitworth said of Hill. ''It's being able to run the football and even when you don't have your top playmaker, you can still get a win. That's tough to do in this league.''
DEPARTING IS NOT SWEET: Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin goes into the season finale assured his job is secure. Even so, with his team out of the playoff race, he expects to be in a poor frame of mind Monday.
''The day that I don't look forward to the most on the calendar is the day that the players leave the building,'' Philbin said. ''When I drive home Monday, there is an empty feeling. I'm usually in a bad mood when I get home, and my wife is not happy. It's not good.''
How does his wife handle the situation?
''She says, `Go pick up one of the kids, go do this and go do that,''' he said. ''Like a good husband, I do whatever she says.''
WHO'S BACK THERE?: Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has heard his fair share of criticism for the team's play this year, but he received some votes of confidence this week from coach Jay Gruden.
The Redskins have 12 players on injured reserve, including DeAngelo Hall, Brian Orakpo, Brandon Meriweather and Trent Murphy - all of whom started on defense this season. They've also had to work around significant injuries to Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Keenan Robinson, Tracy Porter and Adam Hayward.
''When you have a new guy at mike linebacker every other day, or a new guy at left corner every day, and you move a guy from safety to other safety, and a guy from nickel to corner or corner to nickel, it takes its toll,'' coach Jay Gruden said. ''It sounds easy, but it's not. For these guys to come in here: `Now I've got the vertical hook, now I've got this, how do I play this in fire zone?' There's a lot of fundamentals, a lot of teaching that goes on, and (defensive backs coach Raheem Morris) and coach Haslett and the rest of the coaches have done a good job as far as getting these guys ready to go, but it has affected us.''
Stewart is running as well as he has at any point in his six-year NFL career, racking up 437 yards and averaging 5.6 yards per carry over the last four weeks for the Panthers (6-8-1).
Meanwhile, Williams has missed nine games this season with various injuries. He turns 32 in April.
The Panthers have had lots of money tied up in those two running backs over the last few years, making the prospect of releasing them counterproductive to their salary cap. That changes next offseason for Williams.
If the Panthers cut their all-time leading rusher in 2015 they would have to absorb a $2.26 million cap hit, which is more palatable than the $6.6 million cap hit they would have taken had they released him this year, according to Sportrac.com.
Meanwhile, the Panthers appear locked into Stewart for at least the next couple of seasons. They would have to take a $13.6 million cap hit if they cut him in 2015 or a $7.3 million hit if they release him in 2016.
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