Friday, August 14, 2009
Vick swallows pride, makes smart move
By Jeffri Chadiha ESPN.com
Michael Vick's decision to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles should tell us one thing: He really is serious about doing whatever is necessary to make a successful return to the NFL.
He obviously understands the Eagles have a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback (Donovan McNabb) and a quarterback of the future (Kevin Kolb). Vick also realizes that the only way he'll play quarterback is either in a special situation or in the event of an injury to McNabb. But the major point here shouldn't be lost. Vick clearly has the right attitude as he reboots the career he jeopardized.
As surprising as this move is -- after all, the Eagles didn't seriously consider this decision until Kolb sustained a knee injury in training camp -- Vick couldn't have landed in a better situation. He'll be playing on a Super Bowl contender, in a familiar offense (the West Coast) and behind a Pro Bowl quarterback who actively lobbied for Vick's presence on the roster.
Even though it's hard to predict what will happen to him after his contract expires, there is a huge upside here. As Vick said during his press conference Friday morning, "You only get one shot at a second chance, and I'm conscious of that."
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The key, of course, is that Vick swallowed his pride and went to a team that offered him the best opportunity to transition back into the league instead of putting him on a track back to superstardom. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Vick had to come to grips with the real possibility that he might never be a full-time starting quarterback again. His 23-month federal prison sentence made it nearly impossible for any team publicly to support him in any role of leadership.
But make no mistake, Vick can still offer plenty to the Eagles. It was just a matter of his accepting that his usefulness will probably be in a multi-dimensional role instead of one that puts him under center.
There's no way to know exactly what Eagles coach Andy Reid has planned for Vick, but we have to assume Philadelphia's offense will have no limits this fall. Just think about the possibility of Vick in the Wildcat formation, with McNabb split wide and playmakers like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brian Westbrook also on the field. Defensive coordinators would have fits trying to cope with such a look. And that's exactly why this was a move worth making for the Eagles.
Those possibilities also will help Vick in the public image department. The easiest way for him to win over a skeptical public is by dazzling fans with his ability again. You have to understand that this isn't solely about what happens to Vick this season. It's also about his proving what he can still do on the field and what he's capable of handling away from it.
We all know Vick will need to brace himself for the scrutiny he's sure to face in the coming weeks. There will be boisterous protesters and plenty of people booing him whenever he walks into an NFL stadium. Forgiveness will not come easy, if it comes at all. But the more Vick plays, the less that's going to be an issue for him in the long run.
The Eagles obviously are going to support him, as both Reid and McNabb talked about the importance of giving people second chances. The presence of former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy as Vick's mentor makes a big difference as well. There's also the fact that Vick is going to a city with rabid football fans hungry to see their team win a championship.
"I expect the public to have questions initially, which has obviously taken place," Reid said. "But we also expect that they trust we have done our homework and that Michael has his life going in a positive direction. I think the majority of the public wants Michael to do well."
The important point to be made about Vick is that this story always has been about one issue: risk versus reward. Vick had to figure out exactly how to make his way back into the league, and he had to find a team that was willing to believe in him. Now comes the easy part. All he has to do is just go out and play.
Of course, his impact won't be immediate. Even though Vick said he's been trying to stay in shape, he hasn't had any NFL-level conditioning in two years and is starting training camp two weeks late.
"I have to start somewhere," said Vick, who also is hoping NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reduces a punishment that keeps Vick ineligible until Week 6. "I have to crawl before I can walk. I can't imagine going out after a two-year hiatus and trying to be a starter for a football team. With as much God-given ability as I have, I don't think I could do it."
Still, the reality here is that Vick finally got what he wanted, and it's because he had the good sense to realize what he needed. He has the chance to rebuild his name in a place where he has support, optimism and hope.
A few weeks ago, you couldn't find a team that would publicly offer him those benefits. Now, after seeing the upside in this deal, it's clear Vick's head is in the right place as he tackles the most important opportunity of his career.
Senior writer Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.