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Those who know Michael Vick say he's been a better man, not just a better football player

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By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 30, 2010; 10:22 PM

Michael Vick is dodging defenders on a football field as artfully as he did in his previous NFL life with the Atlanta Falcons, before he missed two seasons serving a federal prison sentence. His throws in recent weeks have been more accurate than they were then. He has orchestrated consecutive wins as the starting quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. His play has become the talk of the sport.

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Vick's locker was surrounded by reporters three to four rows deep when Vick reached it early Wednesday afternoon at the Eagles' training complex in Philadelphia. He surveyed the chaotic scene and said, "This is amazing."

Indeed it is, but on a far bigger scale than Vick was contemplating. Vick may be crafting the ultimate comeback story, but in addition to the professional revival that could be in the works, a larger question remains: Has the redemption of Michael Vick begun?

Few seem ready to pronounce that with certainty, at least at this point, but those who know him well say they're hopeful that Vick has turned around his life as well as his football career, and that the changes will be lasting.

"I never lost pride in him," said Vick's grandfather, James Boddie. "He's my grandson. Whether he's famous or not, he's my grandson. Michael has done a lot of good things. I know him as a person. He's a good guy. How he got into that other thing, I don't know. I'm just glad he's come to his senses."

Boddie, who lives near Baltimore, said that "people cursed me" and "defaced my truck" when Vick pleaded guilty to a federal charge in connection with his role in a dogfighting operation. When he's in public these days, Boddie said, acquaintances now approach to comment on how well Vick is playing.

"At his sentencing, he said he had to make [himself] another man," Boddie said. "I think he's fulfilling that pledge, on and off the field . . . That jail thing - he doesn't ever want to go that way again. That did something to his psyche. He knows right from wrong. He knows what it took to get him to the status he had. He knows how to tell some people to go hang around with someone else."

Vick said Wednesday he's proud of his progress off the field as well as on it.

"I feel good about where I'm at right now in my life and in football," Vick said. "Like I always say, life is always a work in progress and things happen in phases and stages. You know, you just have to adjust and roll with the punches."

Vick was in the news in June when it was reported that his former dogfighting co-defendant, Quanis Phillips, was shot and wounded at a 30th birthday party for Vick in Virginia Beach. A prosecutor said later that Vick was involved in a confrontation before the shooting but left the restaurant three to five minutes before the shooting and had no role in it.

Vick's past misdeeds certainly aren't forgotten. When Eagles Coach Andy Reid last week named Vick the team's permanent starter, a headline in the Philadelphia Daily News read: "Top Dog."

Asked this week for a reaction to Vick's return to prominence, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued a written statement through a spokesperson that said: "As long as he's throwing a football and not electrocuting a dog, PETA is pleased he is focused on his game."

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