Vick not worth the trouble for Eagles

Posted: August 14, 2009

With their shocking decision to sign Michael Vick, the Eagles are taking an enormous risk. All that's at stake is everything owner Jeff Lurie and head coach Andy Reid have ever said about what the franchise stands for, and they have put all of that in the hands of a man who went to prison for murdering dogs.

It just isn't worth it. Not from a football standpoint, which is secondary, and not from any other standpoint.

"It's up to Michael to prove that change has taken place," Reid said. "I think he's there. That's what he wants to do. He knows not everybody is going to have that trust in him or belief in him. But I think he'll go out and prove" he's changed.

And it would be nice if Vick has changed and dedicates the rest of his life to good deeds. It would just be nice if that happens somewhere else.

Let's be clear about this from the very top:

Vick did his time for the heinous and despicable dogfighting operation he financed and operated in Virginia. He went to federal prison. He lost millions of dollars. Like anyone else, Vick deserves the chance to return to his chosen profession.

Just not here.

Full disclosure: I received the e-mail about Vick's reinstatement by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell while waiting for my dog to finish his first chemotherapy treatment. I'm sitting in a sterile waiting room, worried sick about a 7-year-old Shih Tzu named Pogue, and a guy who oversaw the torture and murder of dozens of animals is getting cleared to play in the NFL. Let's just say the news rubbed me the wrong way at that moment.

But I also get that Vick comes from a different background, that there is a surprisingly large subculture that sees dogfighting as acceptable. I believe in people getting second chances in life. I think Goodell was right to reinstate Vick. It would be wrong to ban him for life after he served his criminal sentence.

Actually hiring him is a different matter.

Reid emphasized the importance of second chances, taking the rare step of mentioning his two sons' issues with drug addiction and the legal system. That tells you he has given this a lot of thought and is doing it for what he believes are strong reasons.

But he is asking the millions of people who follow the Eagles, who spend their money on tickets and sweatshirts and invest their hearts as well, to share his faith in Vick. And that's asking too much.

The Humane Society, which has endorsed Vick's return to football, is smart to seize this as an opportunity to reach people it might not. Vick's fame and infamy both make him uniquely qualified to speak on the subject of his former pastime.

Nevertheless, it is going to be very difficult to watch this guy without thinking about those dead and tormented dogs. There will be protests, and there should be. There will be verbal abuse from fans, and there should be. As much as Vick has the right to get on with his life, the rest of us have the right to remind him of what he did.

"This is America," Reid said. He has to know that works both ways.

It seems inappropriate to discuss the football stuff, given the gut reaction brought on by the off-field aspects of this. But the Eagles are also creating a difficult situation on their roster and in their locker room. Bringing in a guy like Vick, who will draw lots of negative attention and who may well repulse some of his teammates, is a potential team-killing move.

Terrell Owens was a jerk, but he wasn't as polarizing a figure as Mike Vick.

Vick ran a version of the West Coast offense while he was in Atlanta, but he was not nearly as efficient a passer as Donovan McNabb. If he's slated to be the No. 2 guy, then Kevin Kolb's whole tenure here just became an absurd waste of resources and time.

Maybe Reid thinks Vick can be a kind of situational player. Get him the ball in a Wildcat-type formation and see what happens. As long as McNabb is here to run the real offense, it would be an interesting idea.

But it's an interesting idea Reid should have written on tissue paper and flushed away forever.

The downside here just isn't worth the potential upside. It just isn't.

Vick did an interview with 60 Minutes that will air Sunday night. In it, he seems remorseful. But there's something hollow about his comment that "I didn't step up" - as if bankrolling a criminal operation for six years was the same as a bad fourth-quarter performance.

Sure, Vick is remorseful now. He's unemployed and in desperate need of a job in the NFL. He has been financially devastated and shamed in public and sat in a prison cell. He has every reason to be remorseful. No doubt he's sincere.

And perhaps someone, somewhere should have given him an opportunity to play again. Just not the Eagles. Just not here.


Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.

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