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Philadelphia gives Vick a second chance

Reid, McNabb endorse signing

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By Mike Reiss
Globe Staff / August 14, 2009

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PHILADELPHIA -- Disgraced quarterback Michael Vick is returning to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, signing a two-year contract to play for a head coach who said that he believes in second chances.

The Eagles will formally introduce Vick at a news conference here today at 11 a.m. Vick’s first practice is slated for tomorrow.

“I’m a believer that as long as people go through the right process, they deserve a second chance, and Michael has done that,’’ coach Andy Reid said after the Eagles lost their preseason opener, 27-25, to the Patriots.

“I’ve done a tremendous amount of homework on this, I’ve followed his progress. He has some great people in his corner and he’s proven he is on the right track. This is America, we do make mistakes, and this situation has a chance to prove that he’s doing the right things.’’

Starting quarterback Donovan McNabb, who hosted Vick on a college recruiting visit and was involved in the Eagles’ pursuit of Vick, endorsed the signing, as did owner Jeffrey Lurie, a Newton, Mass., native, who met with Vick.

McNabb has kept in touch with Vick since they met when McNabb was in college at Syracuse.

“A lot of guys are excited,’’ McNabb said. “Think about the potential.’’

The news raced through the stadium during the first half last night. And just like that, the polarizing Vick once again stole headlines, making last night’s exhibition opener - at least from a Philadelphia perspective - a secondary storyline.

The first year of Vick’s contract is for $1.6 million, with an option for the second year at $5.2 million, FoxSports.com reported.

The 29-year-old former Falcons quarterback was convicted of conspiracy and running a dogfighting operation, serving 18 months of a 23-month sentence in federal prison. He was suspended indefinitely by commissioner Roger Goodell.

The suspension was lifted by Goodell July 27, allowing Vick to sign with any team. He can participate fully immediately and can play in the last two exhibition games. When the season begins, Vick can take part in all team activities except games, with Goodell saying that he would consider full reinstatement by Week 6 at the latest.

Reid said that Goodell’s decision played a significant factor in the Eagles’ move, as did the role of former Colts coach Tony Dungy, who served as Vick’s mentor.

“Michael had to do the right things to prove to the commissioner that he had changed, and there is no finer person around than Tony Dungy,’’ Reid said, before detailing his meeting with Vick.

“I felt like he had learned some valuable life lessons here. He seemed very focused and he wants to get his career back on track and he wants to prove to people on the other side - the human side of it, the outside-of-football side of that - that he’s going to do the right things. He’s been doing that.’’

Vick’s story will be told this Sunday. In an interview to air on “60 Minutes,’’ Vick says he accepts blame for not stopping the dogfighting ring.

Reid’s sons have encountered significant trouble with the law, which contributed to his belief in second chances. He knows that not all Philadelphia fans will be on board with the signing.

“I understand that,’’ he said. “There are enough of them who will, and then it’s up to Michael to prove that that change has taken place.

“I think he’s there. That’s what he wants to do and he knows that not everyone is going to have that trust in him or believe in him. I think he’ll go out and prove that.’’

The Eagles have McNabb as their starting quarterback, and he’s signed through 2010. Kevin Kolb, a second-round draft choice in 2007, and nine-year veteran A.J. Feeley are the backups. Kolb is sidelined with a strained left knee and his status might have altered the Eagles’ previous stance on Vick.

Although Reid said he would consider keeping four quarterbacks, the 32-year-old Feeley, who has had a shaky camp, is on the shakiest of ground.

Reid, who noted that the Eagles were competing against a few undisclosed teams for Vick, said there would be no quarterback controversy. He wouldn’t divulge his plans for Vick, saying lightheartedly that there needs to be an element of surprise.

“Michael Vick is a quarterback, that’s what he is, he’s a versatile quarterback, so there are some things you can do,’’ he said. “I haven’t put all that together yet, but I have some pretty good ideas. He’s an unbelievable athlete, both running the ball and throwing the ball. He’s a difference-maker in a lot of areas.’’

The Eagles visit the Falcons, Vick’s former team, in Week 13.

“If he gets back to the way he played in Atlanta, or even has five or eight plays and gets out of the pocket and picks up 20, 30 yards, nobody will ever think about what happened two years ago,’’ McNabb said.

“Everybody will be talking about what we can do to win a Super Bowl. This is no different really than bringing [Terrell Owens] here because he came with baggage. But when he stepped on the field, people tended to forget about that and focused on the positive. I think that’s what we need to do.’’

Mike Reiss can be reached at mreiss@globe.com.

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