Vick, 29, was the first overall pick in the NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. He received 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 July 20.
The Eagles' decision was driven by coach Andy Reid, who made it clear after the 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.
McNabb, who once hosted Vick on a recruiting visit to Syracuse University, later confirmed that he had not only embraced the decision, he had also lobbied for it.
"There is no threat to me," McNabb said. "There is no threat to [backup Kevin] Kolb. It is an opportunity for us to add another weapon to our offense and our team. Think about the potential of what could happen, because I'm going to tell you right now, if he gets back to where he played in Atlanta and . . . he gets out of the pocket and picks up 20 or 30 yards, nobody will be thinking about what happened two years ago. Everybody will be talking about what we can do in order for this team to win the Super Bowl."
McNabb compared the situation to the Eagles' decision to add wide receiver Terrell Owens in 2004.
"This is really no different than bringing T.O. in," McNabb said. "T.O. came with baggage, but when he stepped on the field, people tended to forget about that and focused on the positive. I think that's what we need to do."
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 elusiveness. 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 former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony 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."
Dungy has counseled Vick. He told the Associated Press on 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."
Perhaps some will be forgiving, but People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent out a strong statement condemning the signing.
"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."
The Eagles source said Vick was interested in coming to Philadelphia even though he knows he won't be the starting quarterback.
"He wanted to be in a winning situation and he thought it would be ideal to be in a situation where he could ease back in as opposed to having the pressure of having to be the starting quarterback from Week 1," the source said.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.