Eagles drop bombshell, sign Vick

Posted: August 14, 2009

Nothing that happened on the field - not even the return of three-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady - could trump the shocking news last night that quarterback Michael Vick had signed with the Eagles.

As the Eagles played the New England Patriots in an exhibition game at Lincoln Financial Field, a team source said the deal, which is for one year and an option, was actually agreed to Tuesday; the team did not plan to announce it until this morning.

According to Fox Sports, Vick will be paid $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, according to an Eagles source.

Vick, 31, was the first overall pick in the NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. He is best known for receiving a 23-month federal sentence after being convicted for running a dogfighting operation in Newport News, Va. He spent 18 months in prison and was released from federal custody on July 20.

The decision was driven by coach Andy Reid, who made it clear after the Eagles' 27-25 loss that he felt as though Vick deserved a chance to turn his life around.

"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."

Reid also admitted that his personal life influenced his strong feelings about Vick, referring to the arrests of his two sons, Britt and Garrett, on drug charges.

"I've seen people that are close to me who have had second chances that have taken advantage of those," Reid said. "It's very important that people give them an opportunity to change, so we're doing that with Michael. The other side of that is we're getting one of the best football players in the league."

Vick was conditionally reinstated to the NFL on July 27. According to the terms stated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the former Virginia Tech star can immediately begin practicing with the Eagles and he can also play in the final two preseason games. Reid said it is not exactly clear when Vick can return for the regular season, although he believes the quarterback's suspension could last from zero to five games.

Reid said Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was informed of the team's interest in Vick and fully supported the idea. He added that Vick and McNabb are close friends and emphasized that there was no quarterback controversy.

"I think he deserves a chance," McNabb said after the game. "I look forward to him joining our team. He's no threat for me. He's no threat for [backup Kevin] Kolb. He's another opportunity to add another weapon for our team."

Vick will be incorporated into the Eagles' offense in a number of ways, including the Wildcat formation that the team used sparingly last season, with rookie wide receiver DeSean Jackson taking the snaps. That formation could utilize Vick's scrambling ability. Reid said he also will be used as a wide receiver.

Just before the Eagles reported to training camp at Lehigh University, team president Joe Banner was asked if his team would consider signing Vick. He quickly dismissed the idea.

A team source said Reid's interest in Vick heightened late last week and the Eagles started talking to a long list of people involved with the quarterback, starting with Dungy. The Eagles also talked to Goodell and came away convinced that the commissioner also felt that Vick deserved a second chance to play in the NFL.

The consensus among the people who know Vick best was that he was sincerely remorseful for his involvement in the dogfighting ring. The team source said Vick's actions as much as his words convinced the Eagles of the quarterback's sincerity.

"He's recommitted to a bunch of work with the Boys and Girls Club, he's done work with the Humane Society and he's done speaking engagements [concerning] the dogfighting issue in general," the source said. "From everything we could learn, we decided that this guy was on the right track . . . and from a football perspective, this made a lot of sense."

Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy has counseled Vick. He told the Associated Press Wednesday that he thought Vick would continue his public-speaking engagements even as he returns to the league.

"What we've talked about is how you balance this when you do get back to playing," Dungy said. "I said, 'You've got to carve out time for what's important.' I think he'll do that. I think he feels like his decisions let some of his fans down and he wants to make that right."

When it was suggested that there would be some backlash over the Eagles' decision to sign Vick, Reid did not disagree and said he understood. He added that it was up to Vick to convince the skeptics that he is sincere about being rehabilitated.

"This is America," Reid said. "We do make mistakes, and in this situation he has a chance to prove he is doing the right things and I think the fans will be excited for him as long as he continues to do them. He's been proactive, speaking all over the country and working with the Humane Society."

Former Eagles linebacker Ike Reese, who played two seasons with Vick in Atlanta, said he was stunned by the move.

"I don't think you put yourself through the public backlash that they are going to receive [today] and the next few days from the people who are opposed to this type of move just for the Wildcat," Reese said. "He hasn't played for two years. Why take that risk?"

Vick's last game, in fact, was on New Year's Eve of the 2006 season against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. He suffered an injury that knocked him out of the game before halftime and his life went into turmoil the following summer when the allegations about the dogfighting ring surfaced.

Now, Vick is back in Philadelphia and back in the NFL.

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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