'Most disliked' tag still attached to Vick

The Forbes.com poll that lists Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick as the most disliked NFL player, four years after his release from prison, is both surprising and unsurprising.

It is surprising because Vick’s behavior has been exemplary since he was reinstated in 2009 by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. But perceptions linger, and a breakdown of the data by E-Poll Market Research shows Vick was better liked by those who identify themselves as close followers of the NFL. In other words, people who have paid closer attention to Vick have less lingering animosity than those who have not.

It is unsurprising for a few reasons. First, the poll asked only about active players with name recognition of at least 10 percent among those polled. That rules out Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end who is facing charges in a murder case. And it rules out lesser-known players who have been suspended or investigated for various offenses.

The polling also says much about the way perceptions linger, whether fair or unfair. San Diego rookie linebacker Manti Te’o was second to Vick on the list, with 48 percent saying they disliked him. Te’o didn’t commit any felonies or serve any prison time. He was merely caught telling an untrue story about a non-existent girlfriend.

Perceptions about Vick, named as disliked by 53 percent of those polled, don’t change easily. Those who see him as the Eagles’ best hope to win now and in the future under Chip Kelly don’t seem to grasp that he is 33, injury prone, and has been the franchise quarterback through 8-8, 4-12 and now 3-4 seasons. The Eagles were 1-3 in the four games Vick started and finished this season. He has not won a playoff game since the 2004 season.

Just as Vick’s fans see him as the dynamic player he was early in his career, and for brief flashes in 2010 and this year’s season opener, his detractors see him as the unsavory character that killed dogs, ran an illegal dogfighting ring and once flipped off Atlanta fans who booed him.

The reality: It is somewhere in the middle. Vick has said many times that he knows some people will never forgive him, and he has publicly been a very humble man. He has diligently paid back the money he owed creditors after being forced into bankruptcy. It has also been said often that Vick could make people forget his past by leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl. He hasn’t exactly been that player, either.