By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 14, 2009
Michael Vick's return to the NFL became official Thursday when the quarterback, after two seasons out of the league while serving his federal sentence for his role in a dogfighting operation in Virginia, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Vick signed a one-year deal with the club with an option, at the team's discretion, for a second season. He is to be starting quarterback Donovan McNabb's backup.
"I'm a believer that as long as people go through the right process, they deserve a second chance," Eagles Coach Andy Reid said at a news conference Thursday night. "Michael has done that. I did a tremendous amount of homework on this. I followed his progress. He's got some great people in his corner. He has proven that he's on the right track."
The Eagles scheduled a news conference for Friday at which Vick is to appear, along with his adviser Tony Dungy and representatives of the Humane Society. Vick is to participate in his first practice Saturday, Reid said.
"He's in a good place," Reid said of Vick after the Eagles' opening preseason game against the New England Patriots. "I've seen people close to me that have had second chances that have taken advantage of those. It's very important that people give them opportunities to prove that they can change, and so we're doing that with Michael. I'm very excited on the other side of that to have, also, a good football player. You're talking about one of the top quarterbacks in the league when he was playing."
Reid said he was sensitive to Vick's situation in part because of a string of legal troubles experienced by Reid's two sons. Reid said that he and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie had spoken to Vick, and Reid also had discussed the move with McNabb, who is friendly with Vick and once hosted Vick on a college recruiting visit to Syracuse. Vick ended up attending Virginia Tech, but the two remained close.
"I pretty much lobbied to get him here," McNabb said during his postgame news conference Thursday.
Vick's contract with the Eagles reportedly could be worth as much as $6.8 million, including $1.6 million for this season.
Under the terms of his conditional reinstatement by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Vick is eligible to practice with the Eagles immediately and play in their final two preseason games. Goodell is to rule by Week 6 of the season on Vick's eligibility to play in regular season games.
The Eagles, in addition to McNabb and now Vick, have quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and A.J. Feeley. Kolb is sidelined by a knee injury, although the injury is not considered serious.
Lurie said last week at the team's training camp in Bethlehem, Pa., that he believed Vick deserved a second chance in the NFL. But Lurie gave no indication then that such a second chance would come with the Eagles, saying only that the situation had to play itself out.
The Eagles pursued Vick relatively quietly and only in recent days were included in the speculation about the teams possibly interested in Vick.
Vick was reinstated by Goodell after being imprisoned in Leavenworth, Kan., and then on home confinement in Hampton, Va. Vick became a free agent when the Atlanta Falcons released him in the offseason, but there once was a question whether any NFL team would be willing to face the public relations ramifications that would accompany signing him.
No team publicly acknowledged its pursuit of Vick. But people close to the situation had said this week that at least five teams were interested. Dungy, the former Indianapolis Colts coach, said he had spoken to a number of NFL coaches about Vick, and predicted that Vick would sign with a team this week.
According to the Associated Press, Vick said in a televised interview scheduled to air Sunday that he feels "some tremendous hurt behind what happened."
Vick, interviewed for "60 Minutes" on CBS by veteran sportscaster James Brown, said he "should have took the initiative to stop it all. . . . I didn't -- I didn't step up. I wasn't [a] leader."
According to the AP account of the interview, Vick said he cried at night in his prison cell, and when asked by Brown if he was more concerned about his NFL career or the dogs he injured, Vick said, "Football don't even matter."
The Eagles' lone triumph in their five NFC title games under Reid came over the Falcons, with Vick as their quarterback, in the 2004 season.
Vick is eligible to play for the Eagles in an Aug. 27 preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles close the preseason on Sept. 3 against the New York Jets at Giants Stadium.
They play at Oakland on Oct. 18 in Week 6 of the regular season. The Eagles face the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field eight days later in a Monday night game. They also are scheduled to play at Atlanta on Dec. 6 in what could be Vick's on-field return to that city.