Vick Says He'll Try to Make Most of Chance
UPDATED (3:41 p.m.)...
PHILADELPHIA--Michael Vick said here Friday he hopes to prove he's deserving of the second chance to play in the NFL that the Philadelphia Eagles have given him.
"I committed an act that was cruel and it was unethical," Vick said at a news conference at the Eagles' training facility. "It was inhumane. So I understand to a certain degree [that some observers will never forgive him]. But our country is a country of second chances and I paid my debt to society. I spent two years on prison.... That was a humbling experience."
Vick was officially introduced by the Eagles on the day after the team announced that it had signed the quarterback to a one-year contract, plus a club option for a second season. Vick missed the last two NFL seasons while serving his federal sentence for his role in a dogfighting operation in Virginia.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said he'd had to be convinced to give Vick another chance.
"This took a lot of soul-searching for me," Lurie said. "I was asked to approve Michael Vick joining a very proud organization several days ago. Sometimes in life, you have to make extremely difficult and soul-searching decisions where there is no right answer.... When you are asked to approve something that you completely find despicable and anathema, it takes a lot of soul-searching."
Vick was seated at a table with Eagles Coach Andy Reid and former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, who has agreed to serve as an adviser to Vick, as he spoke.
Vick thanked Lurie, Reid, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, Dungy and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"I know, as we all know, in the past I have made some mistakes," Vick said. "I have done some terrible things. I made a horrible mistake. And now I want to be part of the solution and not the problem.... I want to do whatever is necessary and be the best ambassador for the NFL and the community."
Vick called McNabb, who recommended to Reid that the Eagles sign Vick, "a great friend." He called being with the Eagles a perfect situation, and declared himself "ready to go."
He's scheduled to participate in his first practice with the Eagles on Saturday.
"I made poor decisions in my life and I had to reach a turning point, and prison definitely did it for me," Vick said. "It [his behavior] was totally unnecessary and uncalled for.... I was wrong for what I did. Everything that happened at that point in time in my life was wrong and unnecessary and, for the life of me, to this day I can't understand why I was involved in such a pointless activity and why I risked so much at the pinnacle of my career. I was naïve to a lot of things. But I figure if I can help more animals than I hurt, then I am contributing. I am doing my part."
Vick called it a "surreal feeling" to be back in the NFL. His contract with the Eagles reportedly will pay him $1.6 million this season and $5.2 million next season if the team exercises its second-year option. The deal reportedly also contains an additional $3 million in possible incentives that could push its overall value to $9.8 million.
Vick called Goodell's conditional reinstatement of him "fair." Under the terms of his reinstatement, Vick is eligible to practice immediately and to play in the Eagles' final two preseason games. Goodell is to rule by Week 6 of the season on Vick's eligibility to play in regular season games.
Goodell's conditional reinstatement of Vick came after the quarterback was imprisoned in Leavenworth, Kan., and on home confinement in Hampton, Va. Vick, a father of three, said the most difficult moment of his ordeal came when he had to explain the situation and his actions to his young children.
"I think everybody deserves a second chance," Vick said. "We all have issues. We deal with certain things, and we all have our own set of inequities. I think as long as you are willing to come back and do it the right way and do the right things and that you're committed, then I think you deserve it. But you only get one shot at a second chance, and I am conscious of that.
"... I went to prison and I had plenty of time to think about what I did.... I have to keep pushing forward and try to do more good than bad.... I have to make a lot of people believe that I can."
He said he realized before his illegal activities became publicized that what he was doing was wrong, but was unable at that point to turn his life around.
"There was a point in my life when, before I was convicted or before the allegations even came out, when I knew it was wrong and I felt that it was wrong," Vick said. "Just when I was trying to turn the corner, it was too late. But everything happens for a reason, and there is a reason I was sent to Kansas and a reason I was convicted. I was conscious of the fact that it was wrong, and to this day I have to deal with that shame and that embarrassment."
Vick's arrival in town was not greeted with universal praise. The front-page headline in Friday's Philadelphia Daily News read: "Hide Your Dogs." The newspaper's back-page headline asked of the Eagles: "What Are They Thinking?"
At 1:15 p.m., a little more than an hour after the Eagles' news conference had ended, four protesters stood on a sidewalk outside the gate to the team's complex.
They held signs that said, "Hide Your Beagle, Vick's an Eagle," and "We Don't Want a Killer."
The group had been much larger earlier in the day, they said. One Eagles player, they said, had stopped his car while driving past and had told them that they were rude.
The Eagles indicated they knew that some of their followers would be displeased with the move.
"Not everybody agrees with every decision that's been made, no matter where it is or what organization it is in the National Football League or in Philadelphia," Reid said. "I know some people will not agree. But on the other hand, I think the majority will.... I expect the public to have questions initially, which is obviously taking place, but at the same time I trust that we do the right things here.... I think that the majority of the public wants Michael to do well."
Lurie called himself an "extreme dog lover." He said he thinks daily about two of his dogs that died recently and indicated he now has two dogs, one of which had been rescued from an abusive situation. He called Vick's crimes the "worst possible behavior" and said that Vick had "disgraced" the NFL.
But the Eagles owner said he became more receptive to the suggestion of signing Vick after receiving input from Reid, Goodell and Dungy. He had a lengthy one-on-one meeting with Vick, he said, in which he sought to detect remorse and self-hatred on Vick's part for his crimes, and did.
"I wanted to know everything," Lurie said. "I wanted to know about the cruelty, the torture, the humiliation.... I spent hours with Michael, asked him extremely tough questions, tried to evaluate remorse."
Lurie called it unprecedented for him to meet with a player that the franchise was considering signing, and he called the move to add Vick counter-intuitive to a team that prides itself on the character of its employees. But Lurie changed his mind about Vick and about the proposed move, and approved the signing.
"In spending the time with Michael, I think he deserves that opportunity," Lurie said. "... Meeting with Michael, I felt the self-hated. I felt the remorse. I felt the plans going forward could be very, very fruitful for animal rights in America.... He has an opportunity to be a very valuable member of society, and that's the goal here.... There was an opportunity here to be [Vick's] support system."
Lurie said he wouldn't have approved the move if McNabb hadn't been in agreement with it. But he also indicated he wouldn't evaluate the success of the signing on football terms.
"If we don't have an extremely pro-active player here off the field, then this is a terrible decision," Lurie said. "... My own measurement of Michael Vick will be 100 percent: Will he be able to create social change in this horrendous arena of animal cruelty?... If he's not proactive, he will not be on the team because that's part of the agreement."
The Eagles will release Vick if he doesn't hold up his off-field part of the bargain, Lurie said.
"There is no room for error on Michael's part," Lurie said. "There are no third chances and we know that.... If it becomes at all apparent that we're wrong, it won't take very long to make that change."
Vick has made several recent public appearances, including one this week in Chicago as part of an anti-dogfighting campaign by the Humane Society.
Wayne Pacelle, the president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society, said in a written statement released Friday: "Michael Vick admits that what he did to dogs was cruel and barbaric, but now that he has served his time, he wants to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. He has pledged to make a long-term commitment to participate in our community-based outreach programs to steer inner-city youth away from dogfighting. At events with Michael in Atlanta and Chicago, we've seen him deliver a powerful message against animal cruelty.
"Like so many other major American cities, Philadelphia has a serious dogfighting problem, and groups like the Pennsylvania SPCA have excellent programs to combat dogfighting locally. We have not had any discussions with the Philadelphia Eagles and the team did not consult animal welfare groups about its decision, but we look forward to working together to combat the dogfighting problem in Philadelphia and nationwide."
Reid had said during a news conference late Thursday, following the Eagles' opening preseason game against the New England Patriots, that the well publicized legal troubles of his two sons had made him more sympathetic to Vick's bid to start a new life.
From a football perspective, Reid vowed to find ways to utilize Vick's enormous athletic gifts without threatening McNabb's status as the club's starting quarterback.
"I think we know Michael Vick is, and I'm speaking in the past here, two years ago he was one of the greatest quarterbacks in the National Football League," Reid said Friday. "He has tremendous athletic ability, and I've always said to the people of Philadelphia that I would try to bring in the best players that could help our football team to achieve the highest goal, and that's a Super Bowl. Michael will contribute.... You can ask defensive coordinators on other teams if they're worried about that."
Dungy said he'd spoken to about a dozen NFL coaches about Vick. Dungy and Joel Segal, Vick's agent who watched the news conference while standing in an aisle in an auditorium at the team's facility, were evasive about how many of those dozen teams followed up with serious efforts to sign Vick.
Segal said that by the time Vick picked a team, there were two other clubs still in the running to sign him. He declined to identify the teams, although he indicated that Vick might have had a chance to be the starting quarterback with one of the clubs. Fox reported that the Cincinnati Bengals made Vick a contract offer, but the Bengals have Carson Palmer as their starter at quarterback.
An NFL source had said early in the week that at least five teams were interested. Dungy said Friday he wasn't certain how many of the teams that had contacted him were serious about possibly signing Vick. He indicated he believed that Vick ended up in a positive situation.
"I know they didn't do this as a charity measure," Dungy said. "They feel Mike is gonna help their football team.... But they also stepped out to give a man a second chance, and I think that's important.... I think it's gonna work out great. I told Mike I didn't think he could be with a better organization."
Dungy said he didn't want to overstep his bounds but planned to remain in contact with Vick in his mentoring relationship.
Vick had been a free agent after being released in the offseason by his original NFL team, the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons issued a written statement Friday that said: "Michael is going to a first-class organization and will receive tremendous support.... Michael has been given a good opportunity to restart his career in the NFL, and we wish him well."
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