Lurie's glad that 'leap of faith' with Vick worked out

Posted: March 27, 2014

ORLANDO - With Michael Vick's tenure in Philadelphia concluded, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie could not hide his pride when describing Vick's five years in Philadelphia and the risk the organization took in 2009.

"It was a leap of faith," Lurie said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. "We hoped that Michael would be the person he professed he really was and wanted to be, and would be that way in the community. He hit all markers at a 100 percent level."

Lurie reflected on the "second chance" the Eagles gave Vick after he served 19 months in prison on a dogfighting conviction and how it paid off though Vick's influence in the locker room. Lurie noticed the respect that teammates had for the way Vick owned up to his mistakes.

"He was on a mission to prove it wasn't just words, that he wanted to do good things and reverse some of the bad things that he did," Lurie said. "He wanted to take action, and he did that. I think he had a pretty big impact on young people in Philadelphia for the time that he was there."

On the field, Lurie said, there were "some great moments" and "some frustrating moments." He specifically referenced the injuries. But Lurie also noted the type of teammate Vick was and the role Vick played in Nick Foles' development, from their quarterback competition to Vick's stint as starter to the period when Foles replaced Vick.

"For Nick, this was big," Lurie said. "A young, ascending quarterback who ended up playing great . . . and Michael was always supportive."

After a video was uncovered showing Riley Cooper shouting a racial slur, Lurie said, Vick was an important presence in the locker room. The two players Lurie mentioned as most influential during that period are now ex-Eagles: Vick and Jason Avant.

"As much as Michael and Jason contributed, there's going to be people who will follow right in their footsteps and take over that leadership," Lurie said.

Lurie, who declined comment on DeSean Jackson, defended the Eagles' offseason moves by pledging his confidence in a "very focused plan" devised by Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman.

The owner cited the 2011 offseason spending spree as an example of the risks of free agency. When asked about not signing Jairus Byrd, Lurie suggested that the Eagles would have tried signing the safety if Kelly wanted him. But the coach and front office determined that the price did not fit the player.

"It was great because our coach knew some of the top free-agent safeties, they played for him, and we could operate at a level that was based on his projection of reality," Lurie said in reference to former Oregon safeties Byrd and T.J. Ward.

Lurie said the big spending came when the Eagles signed their own players to extensions. That's the organizational philosophy and what Lurie believes is needed to win consistently in today's NFL.

"The old economics from 20 years [ago] don't exist," Lurie said. "Every team is spending exactly the same. For us, we'd prefer to spend it on our terrific young players."

Lurie spoke on what he called "a sad day" after learning about the death of Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson at 95. Wilson founded the Bills in 1959 and was a strong, independent voice.

"This is one of the icons of the league," Lurie said. "When I came into the league, he was a great example of someone who loved his franchise, loved his fans. Heart and soul was all about the Buffalo Bills. . . . He loved what he founded: the AFL and Buffalo."

Wilson is the third NFL owner to die in five months. That is not lost on Lurie, who has seen the passing of some of the storied owners from when he first joined the league in 1994.

"We're starting to lose some of the icons of the NFL/AFL over the last year, but they were great lessons for some of us on loving the sport . . . and loving your community and your team," Lurie said. "This is the only sport that's family-operated. It's not a Fortune 500 corporation running teams. It's a family entity. And I think it's one of the keys to the success of the sport. It's more from the heart."


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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