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|Barked: Fri Aug 14, '09 9:24am PST |
|NFL.com Wire Reports
By halftime of Thursday night's preseason opener, the Lincoln Financial Field crowd was buzzing: Michael Vick was a Philadelphia Eagle.
Suddenly, no one seemed to care much about the game against the New England Patriots. All that mattered to most Eagles fans was that Vick had joined their team.
Even though they already have five-time Pro Bowler Donovan McNabb as their starting quarterback, the Eagles gave Vick a one-year, $1.6 million contract with a one-year team option exceeding $5 million, a league source told NFL Network's Jason La Canfora.
The Eagles will introduce Vick at a press conference scheduled for 11 a.m. ET Friday.
"I'm a believer that as long as people go through the right process, they deserve a second chance," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He's got great people on his side; there isn't a finer person than Tony Dungy (a former NFL coach who's serving as Vick's mentor). He's proven he's on the right track."
Vick, the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001, once was the highest-paid player in the NFL, but he hasn't played football since 2006 when his career came tumbling down in a scandal. He was convicted in August 2007 of conspiracy and running a dogfighting operation, sentenced to 23 months in federal prison, indefinitely suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and later released by the Falcons.
But after Vick served his time and was released from home confinement July 20, Goodell conditionally lifted the quarterback's suspension -- allowing him to sign with a team.
That team is the Eagles, who have McNabb as their starting quarterback. McNabb has led Philadelphia to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl appearance in the last eight years, and he was rewarded with a $5.3 million raise during the offseason. The Eagles tore up McNabb's old contract, which had two years remaining on it, and gave him a new deal worth $24.5 million over the next two seasons.
Backing up McNabb is Kevin Kolb, a 2007 second-round draft pick who sprained a ligament in his left knee earlier in the week, keeping him out of Thursday's game. The Eagles also have veteran A.J. Feeley in training camp, and he played in the 27-25 loss to the Patriots.
"There won't be a quarterback controversy," Reid said after the Vick signing was announced. "We have to make sure he gets back in football shape. He comes into a good, stable unit here. Donovan and Michael are very close."
Paul Spinelli / Getty Images
Michael Vick posted his best statistical season in 2006 -- his last year in the NFL -- when he rushed for 1,039 yards, a league record for quarterbacks.
Reid made sure he spoke with McNabb before signing Vick.
"I pretty much lobbied to get him here," McNabb said. "I believe in second chances, and what better place to get a second chance than here with this group of guys. ... He's no threat to me, not for Kolb. We had the opportunity to add another weapon to our offense."
Vick can immediately participate in Philadelphia's preseason practices, workouts and meetings, and he can play in the final two preseason games. Vick can apply for full reinstatement by Week 6 (Oct. 18-19), and if he's eligible to play after that, he could face his former team, the Falcons, when the Eagles visit the Georgia Dome on Dec. 6.
Vick could be used in a variation of the Wildcat offense that the Miami Dolphins made popular last season. He's also familiar with the West Coast offense, although the Falcons ran a different version than the one the Eagles use.
"He's an unbelievable athlete, both running the ball and throwing it," Reid said of Vick. "I'll think of something for him."
When news of Vick's signing circulated in the Lincoln Financial Field press box during the first half of Thursday's game, even the Eagles' public relations staff seemed surprised. The crowd quickly caught on to news, and fans standing on the concourse were in disbelief. One guy wondered how quickly he'd be able to buy a Vick jersey. Another asked if it was a joke.
In a "60 Minutes" interview scheduled to air Sunday, Vick accepted blame for not stopping the illegal dogfighting operation that he bankrolled. Vick said he feels "some tremendous hurt behind what happened" and that he should have taken "the initiative to stop it all. ... I didn't."
Asked if he was more concerned about his playing career or the dogs he hurt, Vick replied, "Football don't even matter."
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights group, wasted no time reminding people exactly what Vick had done.
"PETA and millions of decent football fans around the world are disappointed that the Eagles decided to sign a guy who hung dogs from trees," PETA spokesman Dan Shannon told The Associated Press. "He electrocuted them with jumper cables and held them under water. You have to wonder what sort of message this sends to young fans who care about animals and don't want them to be harmed."
But Reid believes most Eagles fans will accept Vick.
"This is America. We do make mistakes," Reid said. "This situation is a chance to prove he's doing the right things. He's been proactive speaking across the country."
Since Reid became the Eagles' coach in 1999, the team has avoided players with character issues. The lone exception came in 2004 when Philadelphia acquired wide receiver Terrell Owens from the San Francisco 49ers. That move paid off when Owens helped lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl in his first season. But Owens quickly wore out his welcome, criticizing management over a contract dispute and feuding with McNabb, and was released midway through the 2005 season.
"I couldn't envision Mike being here," said former Eagles linebacker Ike Reese, a teammate of Vick's with the Falcons in 2005 and '06. "I didn't see where he fit in. I think most people in the locker room would accept it. Donovan is very secure in his position. He wants to see Mike get another opportunity."
Indeed, players around the NFL expressed happiness that Vick was back in the league.
"That's a lot of talent right there that was going to go to waste if nobody picked him up," Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee said. "I think he'll fit in pretty good there. They're going to take care of him."
Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason said he hopes the Eagles use Vick as a quarterback instead of a gimmick player.
"He's better than 95 percent of the quarterbacks that are starting right now in this league," Mason said. "He can sit behind Donovan and learn, and hopefully he'll get an opportunity to get in there some games. But if he just takes this time to grow as a player, his future is going to be bright."
Vick has thrown for 11,505 yards and 71 touchdowns in his six-year NFL career, and he also has run for 3,859 yards and 21 scores. In 2006, his final season before going to prison, Vick set a single-season NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,039. He also has eight 100-yard rushing games, another league record for a quarterback.
Coincidentally, Vick's last NFL game before the prison sentence came Dec. 31, 2006 at Philadelphia. Vick sprained his ankle on the first play of the third quarter in that game, which his Falcons lost 24-17, and he finished with 81 passing yards (with one touchdown) and 17 rushing yards.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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