ATLANTA - With training camp finished at Furman University, the Atlanta Falcons are switching to a different gear, but coach Jim Mora remains guarded about starting quarterback Michael Vick.
Mora won't say how much Vick will play when the Falcons host Minnesota in a preseason game Friday night. Though the rookie head coach wants his healthy starters on the field for most of the first half, Vick's exposure will be limited against a Viking defense that recorded seven sacks last week.
"If someone was going to come out early, he'd be a prime candidate," Mora said. "I'll tell you this. We're going to play our starters a lot longer in this game than we did in the last game. You could see them up to halftime, depending on how many snaps we're getting on each side of the ball."
Even the most casual NFL observer knows how much Vick's health means to the Falcons, who went 2-10 after their star quarterback broke his right leg in a preseason game last year. Mora will take a cautious approach.
Minnesota (1-0 preseason) carries red flags into the Georgia Dome for an Atlanta offense that has three top receivers, tight end Alge Crumpler (knee) and flankers Peerless Price (ankle) and Brian Finneran (finger, ankle), nursing minor injuries. The Vikings' defense ransacked the Arizona Cardinals in a 23-6 win last week as three starting linemen - tackle Kevin Williams and ends Kenny Mixon and Kenechi Udeze - each had a sack.
Keith Newman, who played 12 games for the Falcons last year, and fellow linebacker Nick Rogers, a former Georgia Tech standout, also had sacks.
Atlanta (0-1) allowed four sacks in a 24-0 loss at Baltimore, including a safety blitz that felled Vick for a 9-yard loss. "We've got a lot of work to do still, obviously, before the season opener," Mora said in reference to the first regular season game Sept. 12 at San Francisco. "But we're right on track."
Though the Falcons have installed a new offense under first-year coordinator Greg Knapp, Vick doesn't think extra preseason snaps are going to help him much.
"After two or three series, you've got the opposing team's threes and fours out there," Vick said.
Vick throttled Minnesota in 2002 as he set a single-game NFL record for rushing by a quarterback with 173 yards, but last year he could only stand on the sideline and nurse a broken right leg as the Vikings cruised to a 36-29 win.