Vick returns to prison with a positive message

Vick
Vick
Posted: March 21, 2011

TAMPA - Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has had football taken away from him once before. The biggest difference this time, he said, is that he still has the freedom to practice the game, even if he can't actually play it.

And Vick does intend to practice during the NFL's work stoppage. He made that clear Saturday after visiting a prison in Avon Park, Fla., where he said he delivered a message of hope and encouragement to the inmates.

"Being a veteran I think it's important that I take on a leadership role here and gather the young guys together and make sure we're being responsible and taking care of our bodies for whenever we do get back to work," Vick said.

"We don't know how long this [work stoppage] is going to be, but the thing you have to remember is that we all have personal trainers to help keep us in shape, so there's not really any layoff for us. We'll still be working."

Vick had a 2-year layoff while he spent time in prison for bankrolling a dogfighting ring. He said one of the most difficult aspects of his absence from the game was the inability to practice his craft and stay sharp.

"A 2-year layoff is tough," Vick said. "But the thing I have now is my freedom. I'm able to work out and keep my body in shape, so I believe everything will work itself out in due time."

Vick didn't venture a guess as to when the work stoppage would end, but he agreed with former Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy, who accompanied him on his visit to the prison, when Dungy said, "There will be football this year."

"You heard what the coach said," Vick said. "I mean, I really don't want to think about the worst-case scenario, because I really do believe there will be football, so I'm planning for that.

"The rest, it's out of my control so you just have to leave it to the higher administration to get everything taken care of. You just have to be optimistic in a situation like this."

Vick surely is optimistic about one thing. He said the ability to retain offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg could give the Eagles an offensive edge over some teams, should the work stoppage drag on and drastically shorten the preseason.

"There will be some new wrinkles that we'll add, and it will be good to come back and see what new things coach has in store for us, but we all know the system, and that's good for us," Vick said.

Coach Andy Reid said Vick will benefit from having the offseason to analyze a whole season of his play on film.

"Michael's given now time where he can go back and from a whole standpoint study what he did in 2010," Reid said in an interview with the team website last week. "He'll learn this offense and the scheme and technique better. He's able to slow it down. All of his game should increase.

"The thing he understands is defensive coordinators that we play now have a year to study him. Now he has to take that next step or they are going to catch up to him."

Vick said he'll spend some of his down time preaching the message he delivered to the Avon Park inmates on Saturday, which marked a first for him.

"I've spoken to groups of kids, high school kids, some collegiate kids, but I'd never walked into a prison [to speak] before," said Vick, who addressed about 1,000 inmates.

The visit was part of the 84th memorial birthday celebration for the Rev. Abe Brown, the founder of the Abe Brown Ministries, a group dedicated to transforming the lives of those in prison.

"And the message really was just to stay encouraged and to never lose hope," Vick said. "It was to keep the faith and practice patience, and I think they understood it. I think to have somebody in front of them who actually experienced what they're experiencing, it was good to hear that from me."

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