Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Friday, August 14, 2009
Eagles embrace Vick as their brother


 
  Charles Small/US Presswire
  Eagles players were excited to hear about the addition of Michael Vick.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

PHILADELPHIA -- In the locker room, dog killings apparently won't matter.

Neither will the protests nor the media horde nor the fan backlash over Michael Vick.

His new teammates intend to wrap him in a cocoon, defend him, welcome him not only as a Philadelphia Eagle, but also as a returning member of the NFL brotherhood.

V-Day finally dropped Thursday, when word finally broke that the disgraced former Atlanta Falcons quarterback had been granted another chance in the NFL after serving a 23-month sentence for his role in a dogfighting enterprise.

Vick Signs With Eagles
Vick signs two-year deal
Mortensen: Philly adds up
Graham: Eagles embrace Vick
Mosley: Good or bad move?
Clayton: Eagles a good fit
Bryant: Vick's debt still unpaid
Reaction spans commerce, protest
Chadiha: Vick's head in right place
Mosley: Vick not worth the drama
NFL Nation on Vick signing
Fantasy: Vick a deep sleeper
SportsNation: How will Vick fare?

"He's definitely going to be embraced," Eagles cornerback Ellis Hobbs said. "The NFL is a fraternity of brothers. When you bring in a guy who's been through the things that he's been through, you want to surround him and protect him as much as possible because everybody's out there throwing stones at him.

"We want to be the protector, to let him know that once he comes in here it's safe havens. No one's going to judge you in here because any one of us can stumble. When somebody does fall like that, you bring him back in and you embrace him. You're still a person. You're still our brother."

There will be protests. Pity the poor individual who has to answer the phones at One NovaCare Way on Friday morning. Disgusted fans almost certainly will be asking for refunds. Animal lovers who've never witnessed an Eagles game will attack.

The Eagles apparently are ready for the onslaught of criticism. Owner Jeffrey Lurie, who lists his favorite dog breeds in the thumbnail bio that appeared in Thursday night's game program, signed off on the coming firestorm.

His new teammates are asking for forgiveness.

"In my opinion, they should be happy," receiver DeSean Jackson said. "Even though he did whatever he did, I don't feel like nobody should hold a grudge on him. It's the past. He has to move on. Hopefully, they'll accept him and be fans of him."

Said Eagles cornerback Quintin Demps: "This society's built on redemption. Everybody deserves a second chance. We shouldn't sit here and throw the book at everyone. I'm not condoning anything he did. But he paid his debt. He made a terrible mistake. Now it's time to move on."

Many football pundits projected the best destination for Vick would be an out-of-the-way burgh where he could recover what was left of his shattered career and prove himself all over again -- as a player and a person.

But maybe the sports crucible that is Philadelphia is the appropriate place for this story to play out. This city can handle it.

"What better place to come here with this group, who continues to stay together?" quarterback Donovan McNabb said. "We burn together after tough times and be able to overcome adversity."

Eagles coach Andy Reid's own family problems understandably leave him open to granting second chances, but the Eagles wouldn't have extended a lifeline to Vick if they didn't think he could help them win.

The Eagles -- who heard rumblings from the crowd at Thursday night's 27-25 preseason loss to the New England Patriots but weren't officially informed of the signing until afterward -- were beaming in the locker room afterward.

"It's hard to pass up a guy that every time he can touch the football he can score touchdowns," said backup quarterback A.J. Feeley.

McNabb insisted he's still the quarterback, but he gladly will concede some snaps to Vick like Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington does to running back Ronnie Brown in the Wildcat formation.

McNabb openly wondered what a backfield of Vick, Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy would look like.

But that's for another time.

For now, what's important is absorbing Vick back into the NFL fraternity. What happens on the streets outside of Lincoln Financial Field is insignificant to his new brothers.

"When we walk in the locker room here, what really counts is the coaching staff and the guys who rally around each other," Feeley said. "We feed off each other and stay within that box. What happens outside of it, so be it."

Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden discuss Vick's arrival in Philadelphia.