Nick Foles handing off to Bryce Brown in front of a national television audience wasn't the way the Philadelphia Eagles envisioned their season going.
The two rookies will be starting again Sunday night when the struggling Eagles (3-8) visit Dallas (5-6) because Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy are still sidelined by concussions. Vick, the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback, is missing his third straight game and McCoy, the All-Pro running back, his second in a row.
Neither Vick nor McCoy has even been cleared to begin practicing since getting hurt. Vick remains in stage four of five in his recovery and McCoy is in stage two, according to head athletic trainer Rich Burkholder. The team has a five-phase recovery protocol, which is separate from the NFL-mandated concussion program.
Both Burkholder and coach Andy Reid flatly denied a television report that Vick has complained of being a "victim of politics."
"Michael has hit a plateau in his rehab," Burkholder said. "There is no conspiracy here. We do not grade the ImPACT test, which he has not gotten back to baseline. I send that paper from the computer off to the people in Pittsburgh. They come back and say he has not passed baseline. That is an NFL rule. That has nothing to do with anything with us. He has to pass that before we can ever entertain the fact of him playing."
Burkholder said Vick is expected to take the test again on Monday. If he doesn't pass, it's possible the team will send Vick to Pittsburgh to meet with concussion specialists. Burkholder identified the issue being related to Vick's eye movement and his balance.
"He's levelled off," Burkholder said. "We recognize the problem. We're going to rehabilitate it."
Vick issued a statement after Friday's practice thanking fans and the organization for their support.
"I feel strong and healthy," he said. "As a professional athlete, I want to play in every game but the NFL has a specific protocol to protect players. My focus is to complete this process successfully, so I can rejoin my team on the field."
Said Reid: "Everything is in the best interest of him right now."
Foles turning heads
Foles, a third-round pick who had an impressive preseason, has 542 yards passing, one touchdown, three interceptions and a 65.3 passer rating in 2 1/2 games. Only Arizona's John Skelton has attempted more passes with a lower rating (64.4) than Foles.
"Getting better every day on the practice field, working as hard as I can in the film room and everything and that's all I can do," Foles said. "Just work better every day to improve."
Brown, a seventh-round pick who had only three carries in college since 2009, ran for 178 yards and two touchdowns Monday night against Carolina in his first start since his senior year in high school. But Brown also lost two fumbles.
"I'm excited, ready to get back out there," Brown said. "Anxious. Really desperate for a win. That's what I really, really want to get."
Brown mishandled a handoff earlier in the season on a carry inside the red zone and lost the ball, but the fumble was credited to Vick. Coaches emphasized ball security to Brown throughout the week.
"Fumbling isn't a habit that I have," he said. "That's not something that I normally do. I've just got to be cautious and be more careful. It's football; things are going to happen. Just go in this week and know that guys are going to be after the ball this game."
The Eagles have a seven-game losing streak entering their divisional rematch against the Cowboys. They'll also be without two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who is out for the rest of the season after injuring his ribs in the 30-22 loss to the Panthers.