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Published: Friday, 8/14/2009

Eagles gamble on disgraced NFL star Vick

ASSOCIATED PRESS

PHILADELPHIA Michael Vick is back in the NFL. When he finally gets in a game, it might be at a new position.

Looking to add a new dimension to their offense, the Philadelphia Eagles gave Vick a one-year deal with an option for a second year. Vick wasn t brought in to compete with five-time Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb for a starting job, but the two could end up on the field together.

He s an unbelievable athlete, both running the ball and throwing it, Eagles coach Andy Reid said. I ll think of something for him.

The most likely scenario would be for the Eagles to use Vick in a variation of the Wildcat offense that the Miami Dolphins made popular last season. Vick also is familiar with the West Coast offense, though he ran a different version with Atlanta than the one Philadelphia uses.

He can definitely make a lot of plays, Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown said.

The deal was announced during Thursday night s preseason opener against New England. Suddenly, no one cared about Tom Brady s first game in 11 months.

The 29-year-old Vick, once the NFL s highest-paid player, has been out of action since 2006. The former Falcons star was convicted in August 2007 of conspiracy and running a dogfighting ring, and served 18 of a 23-month sentence in federal prison. He also was suspended indefinitely by the NFL.

I m a believer that as long as people go through the right process, they deserve a second chance, Reid said. He s got great people on his side; there isn t a finer person than Tony Dungy. He s proven he s on the right track.

Commissioner Roger Goodell conditionally lifted Vick s suspension on July 27, allowing him to sign with a team, practice and play in the last two preseason games. Once the season begins, Vick can participate in all team activities except games, and Goodell said he would consider Vick for full reinstatement by Week 6 (Oct. 18-19) at the latest.

The Eagles reached the NFC championship game last season under McNabb, but are still looking for their elusive first Super Bowl win.

McNabb has led the Eagles to five NFC title games and one Super Bowl appearance in the last eight years and was rewarded with a $5.3 million raise in the offseason. The Eagles tore up his old contract with two years remaining, and gave him a new deal worth $24.5 million over the next two seasons.

Philadelphia is a surprise landing point for Vick. It was among 26 clubs that said there was no interest in him, but that may have changed when backup Kevin Kolb strained a knee ligament earlier this week. Kolb s injury isn t serious and he s expected to return next week. The Eagles also have veteran A.J. Feeley.

There won t be a quarterback controversy, Reid said.

Reid consulted with McNabb before signing Vick, who went to three Pro Bowls in six seasons with the Falcons.

I pretty much lobbied to get him here, McNabb said. He s no threat to me, not for Kolb. We had the opportunity to add another weapon to our offense.

When news of Vick s signing circulated in the press box during the first half of the Eagles preseason opener against the Patriots, even the team s public relations staff seemed surprised.

The crowd quickly caught on at Lincoln Financial Field. Fans standing on the concourse were in disbelief. One guy wondered how quickly he d be able to buy a Vick jersey. Another asked if this was a joke.

It doesn t make any sense, said Michelle Harlan, a mother attending her first NFL game with a young son.

In a 60 Minutes interview set to air Sunday, Vick accepted blame for not stopping the illegal dogfighting operation he bankrolled.

Vick said he feels some tremendous hurt behind what happened.

He said he should have taken the initiative to stop it all ... I didn t.

Asked if he was more concerned about his playing career or the dogs he hurt, Vick replied, Football don t even matter.

The animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wasted no time reminding people exactly what Vick had done.

PETA and millions of decent football fans around the world are disappointed that the Eagles decided to sign a guy who hung dogs from trees. He electrocuted them with jumper cables and held them under water, PETA spokesman Dan Shannon told The Associated Press.

You have to wonder what sort of message this sends to young fans who care about animals and don t want them to be harmed.

Reid believes most Eagles fans will accept Vick.

This is America. We do make mistakes, Reid said. This situation is a chance to prove he s doing the right things. He s been proactive speaking across the country.

Since Reid became the head coach in 1999, the Eagles have avoided players with character issues. The lone exception came in 2004 when Philadelphia acquired wide receiver Terrell Owens. That move paid off when Owens helped lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl in his first season. But T.O. quickly wore out his welcome, criticizing management over a contract dispute and feuding with McNabb. He was released midway through the 2005 season.

The Eagles must be hoping they won t regret this one.



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