Everyone in NFL circles, including myself, was shocked that the Philadelphia Eagles would be the "second chance" place for Michael Vick
(Philadelphia, Pa) --- Since Michael Vick recently ended his 23-month federal sentence and was conditionally reinstated by Goodell on July 27th, the murmurs have become a roar as everyone has wondered, “Which NFL team will have the guts to sign Vick?” Well on August 14th, we received our answer as Vick’s long redemption road back to NFL glory shockingly will start with the Philadelphia Eagles. Vick agreed to a one-year contract, with a one-year option that will be pay him $1.6 million this year, with a chance for the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback to make $5.6 million as part of a 2010 option. None of the money is guaranteed, so essentially this is Vick’s second and quite possibly last chance in the NFL. The 29-year old obviously in his previous NFL life was a star quality player, but his fall from grace was swift and no one knows what type of player he will be for the Eagles after not playing a game since December 2006.
Throughout the whole Michael Vick dogfighting saga, I believed that the formerly disgraced quarterback after serving his debt to society – served almost two years in Leavenworth -- would rightfully receive a second chance in the NFL. But I never thought that the team that I have followed for the majority of my life would enter into the equation. The Philadelphia Eagles have always preached over the years that they are a high “character” team that does things the “right” way and that certain players were not for them – there are multiple cases including the releasing of former Eagles Thomas Hamner and Damon Moore for dog-related offenses. Plus the team just finished one of the league’s most tumultuous training camps where there was daily drama including key players going down with season-ending injuries. But now we know that Michael Vick is indeed the type of football player that the Philadelphia Eagles want and believe that can help them get over the hump in winning a Super Bowl.
I said all along that it was going to take more than a win-hungry head coach to bring in Vick and that it was going to take a franchise’s braintrust to step-up in “accepting” player that has become persona-non-grata. In the Eagles case, head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Donovan McNabb – known Vick since he attempted to recruit the Newport News, VA star to Syracuse -- both thought Vick could help the football team and lobbied on his behalf. "I'm a believer that as long as people go through the right process, they deserve a second chance," Reid said. "Michael has done that. I've done a tremendous amount of homework on this and I've followed his progress. He has some great people in his corner and he has proven that he's on the right track." But ultimately it was Eagles owner Jeff Lurie who had to look in the mirror and accept that his team would be “the team” with the big target on their backs from a public that has been polarized for over a year regarding this case.
Lurie said in a recent press conference regarding his decision to bring in Vick, “This took a lot of soul searching for me. I was asked to approve Michael Vick joining a very proud organization several days ago. Sometimes in life you have to make extremely difficult and soul-searching decisions where there is no right answer”. The Eagles’ owner of over 14 years definitely did not come to the decision on his own. He consulted Reid, Vick’s mentor former Super Bowl winning head coach Tony Dungy, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and most importantly Vick himself. In the end Lurie and the Eagles were committed at giving Vick a second chance and you have to admire their wherewithal when you know a firestorm of backlash and animosity were sure to follow – rumors of season ticket holders selling their seats on EBay started immediately after the signing. Lurie concluded his press confenence on Thursday August 14th by saying, “My hope is that as we go forward, that Michael will prove his value in society. Whether he becomes a good football player again is possible, but more importantly for Michael and for the National Football League, he has an opportunity to be a very valuable member of society and that's the goal here”.
Now in Philadelphia, a place where sports passion has defined a town, Michael Vick will return to the safe confines of the playing field. However it is off the playing field where Vick will have to convince everyone associated to the Eagles’ community and the NFL right down to the ticketing paying fans that indeed he is a changed man. Trust me convincing Goodell, Reid, Lurie, Dungy and other in NFL circles was a cakewalk compared to convincing the many dog lovers out there who know all to well the gruesome details outlined in Vick’s indictment that fueled public outrage. Everyone has their own moral compass and trust me I have received many emails, texts, and phones calls regarding Michael Vick’s potential re-entry into the NFL.
But to all of the people that believe Michael Vick has committed acts that are truly unforgivable, I say “enough” already with persecuting this man. Let me make this abundantly clear, as a fellow dog owner I in no way support or condone what he did, but the man has served his time and deserves a second chance. There are arguments on both sides, but in Vick’s case I believe there are too many cases where athletes have been given second and third chances as fans conflictingly cheered for these so-called “Bad Guys”. I know right here in Philadelphia fans had to decide during the Phillies 2008 World Series Championship run whether to cheer, forget, or jeer Phillies pitcher Brett Myers who earlier was embroiled in controversy after events in Boston with his wife.
Only time will tell if the Eagles made the right decision by signing Michael Vick and if he is truly worthy of them stepping out on the limb for him. But if men of character like Tony Dungy are willing to give Vick the benefit of a second chance, so am I. Who knows how Vick — career passing numbers of 930-1730, 11505 yards, 71 TDs, 52 INTs, and a 75.7 rating plus a record of 38-28-1 as a starter in six years w/ the Falcons — will be used in the Eagles offense. But football right now is secondary as everyone wants to see if he is a changed man or not.
Vick said in his Eagles’ introductory press conference of the challenges ahead in convincing people that he is a changed man. "I think everybody deserves a second chance. We all have issues, we all deal with certain things and we all have our own set of inequities. I think as long as you are willing to come back and do it the right way and do the right things and that you're committed, then I think you deserve it. But, you only get one shot at a second chance, and I am conscious of that."
--- Submitted by Lloyd Vance