With former NFL superstar receiver Plaxico Burress entering prison for a two-year stint this week, many NFL fans’ minds started to wonder about the next steps of another fallen-from-grace NFL star.
After over two years of waiting and anticipation, the "Michael Vick Experience" will more than likely return to the National Football League regular season for the first time since Dec. 31, 2006.
Vick probably will get his chance to play for the Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) at Lincoln Financial Field, ironically the last stadium he played in, against the struggling Kansas City Chiefs (0-2).
Earlier in the 2009 NFL preseason, Vick had played in games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets, which the returning former star described as “surreal.” Well, now Mr. Vick, get ready for the glitz and chaos of the NFL regular season.
As you are probably fully aware, the former indefinitely suspended quarterback had his suspension cut to the first two games of the 2009 NFL season by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his actions related to his much publicized dogfighting case that cost him almost two years in a Leavenworth, Kansas prison.
The July 2009 signing of the controversial quarterback by the Philadelphia Eagles, long known as a “High Character” team for years, was a total shock to Philly fans and media. The signing fueled a firestorm of talk radio, chat room, and water cooler discussions everywhere, with the question of “Why bring in a distraction of this magnitude?”
However, after an initial fire storm of publicity about the signing—people saying they would turn in their season tickets, picketing threats, etc—Vick’s presence on the Eagles' roster seemed to have been minimized. The former highest paid player in the NFL “quietly” went about his business of re-acclimating into the NFL as the Birds' third or fourth quarterback. Plus, doing some much needed PR work related to curbing dog fighting in urban communities.
There is no doubt that the Eagles went out on a limb to sign the infamous quarterback earlier this summer not as social commentary, but as an insurance policy. And like it usually does, fate stepped in and any chances of the Eagles continuing to bring Vick along slowly were thrown out the door in Week one of the regular season.
Eagles' starting quarterback Donovan McNabb was injured (broken rib) in a win over the Panthers. As McNabb laid on the ground, several eyes looked to Philadelphia Eagles Owner Jeff Lurie’s suite at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC.
You could almost hear, “Paging Michael Vick…Paging Michael Vick” through the television even though the former three-time Pro Bowl player was not eligible until Week three (KC Chiefs).
Well, week three of the NFL regular season is here, and Eagles head coach Andy Reid will probably be redeeming the Eagles’ Vick insurance policy as the team looks for a win before their bye week (week four).
McNabb’s rib injury has lingered, and Eagles fill-in starter Kevin Kolb played up and down in a lopsided loss to the New Orleans Saints in week two, so Vick better be ready for the heat of the NFL regular season. If game preparations go as expected, look for Kolb to start, Vick to be the backup, and newly signed backup Jeff Garcia to be the “emergency” quarterback.
Vick—career passing numbers of 930-1730, 54 percent, 11505 yards, 71 TDs, 52 INTs, and a 75.7 rating in six years with the Falcons—will be one hit away from being the team’s leader.
Even if Kolb continues to play as the starter, you can still expect to see Vick used in a variety of ways and formations. In their week two loss to the Saints, the Eagles used the wildcat formation nine times—produced 45 yards of offense with receiver DeSean Jackson taking most of the wildcat snaps.
But now the ultimate dual-threat wildcat quarterback will be available for the Chiefs game in Michael Vick. Having the only quarterback to ever rush for 1,000 yards in a season should greatly alter both the Eagles' offensive and Chiefs' defensive plan of attack for their week two matchup.
Atlanta Falcons' owner Arthur Blank said upon learning of Vick’s release from prison in May, “There’s no question Michael’s paid his debt to society and merits a second chance.”
So, with the knowledge that Vick will more than likely get his second chance to finally play in a regular season game, two questions remain: How will Vick be received and What kind of game shape is Vick in?
In Vick’s last regular season activity for the Falcons back in 2006, he had a difficult season. Vick did become the first quarterback to run for 1,000 yards in a season (1,039 yards) and established a career high of 20 TDs passing. But he didn’t lead the Falcons to the playoffs for the second straight year, threw for a bad 54 percent completion percentage, and looked like a high school quarterback in some games throwing for less than 100 yards.
Vick’s worst performance in the 2006 season had to be a bad 27-14 loss to the Giants on Oct. 15, which Vick called his toughest setback. In that infamous loss, Vick was sacked seven times, had four fumbles, and an interception as the Atlanta Falcons gave away an 11-point lead.
Fast forwarding to the 2009 NFL preseason, Vick, playing for the Eagles in his return to the NFL, debuted against the Jacksonville Jaguars where anticipated jeers, protests, and booing never really materialized. Vick received strong cheers and some fans even gave him a standing ovation.
In that game’s postgame press conference, Vick admitted that he was also pleasantly surprised by the fans’ reception saying, “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.”
On the field, Vick was okay playing in a variety of roles including quarterback, zone-read quarterback, wildcat quarterback, and wide receiver in the slot. He finished with numbers 4-4 for 19 yards with his best pass a 13-yard bullet to now former Eagles' receiver Hank Baskett.
The next week in extensive playing time versus the New York Jets, in the almost never watched dreaded fourth preseason game, Vick struggled.
The Jets’ faithful booed him every time he entered the game and Vick’s body of work for the game showed that he played like a “rusty” guy who had been out of football for two years.
Vick often tried too hard to make something out of nothing and was not his usual mercurial self, finishing with two turnovers (one INT and one fumble lost), while producing passing numbers 7-11, 26 yards, zero TDs, and one INT.
Though Vick did rush seven times for 35 yards, including a tough two-yard touchdown sneak, he clearly needed more practice time. However, the former Virginia Tech star missed a couple of weeks of practice because the Eagles played roster musical chairs around 53-player roster cuts. They placed Vick on the suspended list, which meant Vick would not be allowed to practice, but he could do everything else at the team’s facility (ex. Film Study and working with ballboys on the sideline).
After the Jags’ preseason game, 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 and that because he once played at a high level before and could do it again.
Vick had once been so popular that his number seven jersey was the No. 2 seller among NFL players (Reebok – 2005) and was on the cover Madden in 2004, but his fall was quick and devastating.
On Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, Michael Vick will get another chance in changing people’s view of him on and off the field. Helping the Eagles to “Win” could be the driving force of helping him climb up the mountain of doubt that exists with some.
Hopefully, people will give Vick the same chance as other in the league players who served their time—Tank Johnson, Christian Peter, Leonard Little…(insert any of the many NFL players with legal problems)—and returned to get a second chance to play in the NFL.
“It’s been a long journey for me,” Vick said after the Jaguars' preseason game. “I just want to do it right this time around.” The next step will be proving on the field against the Chiefs that the Eagles made the right choice in taking a chance on Michael Vick.
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)