After over two years of waiting and anticipation, the "Michael Vick Experience" returned to the National Football League. With a gaggle of local and national media in attendance, the press box seemed to have a playoff game-type atmosphere.
Vick played for the first time for his new team (Philadelphia Eagles) versus the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lincoln Financial Field. Ironically, it was in the last stadium he played in, way back on December 31, 2006 with the Atlanta Falcons.
To the surprise of everyone who had built the third preseason game of the Eagles’ schedule into a frenzy—from weeks of radio fueled debate—Vick was well received by the Eagles’ faithful. The anticipated jeers, protests, and booing never materialized with Vick receiving strong cheers—some fans even gave him a standing ovation.
In his postgame press conference, Vick admitted that he was also pleasantly surprised by the fans’ reception. Later he admitted that he screwed a play up by trying to do too much after the warm reception.
The former three-time Pro Bowl player said, “I didn’t think (the reaction) was going to be this positive. I didn’t know what to expect…I was listening to hear what it would be. I’m very thankful.”
All eyes had been on Vick during a whirlwind day from flying back and forth to Virginia for a bankruptcy hearing to warm-ups, pregame drills to when the Eagles starting offense had taken the field with Eagles starting quarterback Donovan McNabb under center. The fans wait did not take long as Vick entered the game on the Eagles second offensive play.
With McNabb flanked out wide, Vick started his long road back by taking the snap and executing a safe four-yard shovel to running back LeSean McCoy. Then as quickly as he had entered the game, Vick returned to the sidelines waiting for his next opportunity, which arrived a few more times.
In all, Vick played in six offensive plays in a variety of roles including quarterback, zone-read quarterback, wildcat quarterback, wide receiver and completed a pass right-handed (naturally a left-handed passer). All of Vick’s playing time occurred in the first half and the Birds netted three points to show for his efforts.
The NFL’s only 1,000-yard rushing quarterback’s final passing numbers were 4-for-4 for 19 yards with his best pass a 13-yard bullet to receiver Hank Baskett at the Jaguars’ 11-yard line. Plus he rushed for one yard on the aforementioned crowd pleasing attempt, where quite frankly he looked a little heavy-legged than the whirlwind cuts machine of the past.
“Everything he was asked to do, he did it well,” McNabb said. There were even chants of “we want Vick” that could be heard on the TV broadcast after McNabb threw an interception—where was the Anti-Vick factions then?
No one seemed to care that the final score was Eagles 33, Jaguars 32 or that the Eagles need to sure-up a myriad of things before their opener (Sept. 13 at Carolina, especially tackling and injuries on their offensive line).
But numbers and the final score of the game can never tell the whole story.
Michael Vick was just happy to get his feet wet in an NFL game for the first time in a long while…well preseason game. He described the feeling of playing in his first game after his whole dogfighting melodrama as “surreal.” Vick said he had to pinch himself to believe he was back in a real game. The experience was another hurdle that Vick had to overcome on his road back.
The only drawback for Vick’s fans was that it may take awhile for the real “Mike Vick” from the past to show-up.
Right now Vick put his current condition at 70 percent of his past faculties, but he added the “sky’s the limit” once he gets his legs under him—working very hard after practice on a daily basis. He added that he was able to play at a high level before and he believes that he can do it again.
I am sure to Vick six plays and a few minutes on an NFL field once seemed like a lifetime away for the former poster player when he was in Leavenworth—he admitted in a 60 Minutes interview that he cried at night in prison.
But now the former first overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft is back on the gridiron after receiving the “second chance” that many, including myself, believe that he deserves. Eagles’ fans, coaches, and players plus the Jaguars overall genuinely seemed happy for Vick as cleared another obstacle on his road to redemption.
“It’s been a long journey for me,” Vick said. “I just want to do it right this time around.”
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)