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Coaches want to keep Vick, Manning safe

TOKYO (Aug. 5, 2005) -- Jim Mora saw the chance to have a little fun when asked how much Michael Vick would play in the first preseason game.

"The whole game," said Mora, the Atlanta Falcons' second-year coach. "We're going to encourage him to run. Oh yeah, sneaks, draws, bootlegs."

No chance of that happening. The Falcons won't take any chances with Vick in Saturday's American Bowl game against the Indianapolis Colts -- not after what happened two years ago.

Vick broke a leg in a 2003 exhibition and missed the first 11 games that counted, essentially ruining the Falcons' season. He barely played in the preseason a year ago, then led Atlanta to the NFC championship game.

Of course, Mora knows the Japanese fans are eager to see one of the NFL's most exciting players for more than three plays. Likewise for Peyton Manning of the Colts, coming off an NFL-record 49 touchdown passes last season.

So, look for a gentleman's agreement between Mora and his Indianapolis counterpart, Tony Dungy.

"I need to talk to Tony and see what his plans are for Peyton," Mora said. "I think between us, we'll kind of manage it so that the people get to see those guys play."

In other words, both defenses might refrain from blitzing while their star quarterbacks are on the field.

"What we really want to see is Michael Vick and Peyton Manning playing in the regular season," Mora said. "We also want to see Peyton Manning make some throws down the field (Saturday), and Mike Vick run around and make some throws, so if you pull off the blitz a little bit, you're going to get to see something.

"Tony and I will talk, and we will make sure it's a good show."

Edgerrin James will be part of the show, even though the Colts' two-time league rushing champion threatened to skip the 14-hour flight to Tokyo.

"We're gonna have some fun here," James said after Friday morning practice at Tokyo Dome. "We always have a good time on this team. I've been getting out to see a few things and the fans have been great to me."

James and his teammates were set to visit U.S. servicemen at Yokosuka naval base later Friday before attending a function at the American Embassy in the evening.

Manning wasn't surprised to have James along, even though the running back is known to dislike preseason games almost as much as he does flying.

"Edgerrin says he's having a good time," Manning said. "I never had a doubt that he wouldn't make the trip."

James may be along for the ride, but he isn't likely to see much -- if any -- action during the game. In 2002 and '03, he appeared for just a handful of plays during the preseason. Last year, it wasn't much more.

Clearly, James doesn't need the extra work. Last season, he produced 2,031 yards from scrimmage -- the fourth time in six years he's topped 2,000.

But Manning said the first-team offense might play more than expected, and he wants James in the backfield.

Vick planned to get in some shopping before the game, the 13th American Bowl to be played in Japan.

"I'm going to try to get some electronics," he said. "I'm a big gadget guy, so I'd like to get something I can take back to the states and brag about."

The NFL's series of international games began in 1986, in response to growing interest in American football around the world. Since then, 39 games have been played in 12 cities outside the United States.

The Colts have never played in Japan. The Falcons made the trip in 2000, beating the Dallas Cowboys 20-9.

While both teams get an extra preseason game by playing in Japan, Mora said it's not much of an advantage because of the long flight. Both teams will head home right after the game.

"If we were staying in the states to play that extra preseason game, then I think it would be a real advantage," Mora said. "You have to figure in the travel time to Japan and then the recovery time when we get back. It's not like we have that extra week that you would think we would have. We kind of lose it in transition."

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2005, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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