Vick's departure very different from arrival

Jeffrey Lurie, you might recall, agonized over whether he wanted to bring Michael Vick to the Eagles back in 2009. Vick had to travel to Lurie’s Main Line home to convince the team chairman that he was truly sorry for the dogfighting scandal that sent Vick to prison, that he would be the right sort of person going forward, on and off the field.

Lurie was much less circumspect last night, after Vick’s Eagles tenure officially ended, when the free agent quarterback signed with the New York Jets.

Lurie issued a statement in which he wished Vick and his family the best and said: “I really enjoyed getting to know him over the last five years. He always represented our team with a tremendous amount of class. Michael was a great teammate, a great leader, and we’re thankful for everything he provided to our organization and our community.”

Vick gave the Eagles a memorable comeback season in 2010, when he unseated Kevin Kolb as Donovan McNabb’s successor and made the Pro Bowl while leading an aging team to the playoffs. The next two years, the Eagles and Vick struggled with injuries and underachieved, and it became apparent that the man whose 34th birthday arrives this June couldn’t take the hits he shrugged off as a younger quarterback. Last season, Vick injuries opened the door for Nick Foles, who established himself as the starter going forward.

In New York, Vick will battle 2013 rookie Geno Smith for the starting job, in an offense designed by former Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. The Jets released QB mark Sanchez when Vick signed his one-year, $5 million deal. The Jets might have been Vick’s only shot at regaining a starting role, as other possibilities narrowed through the first week and a half of free agency.

Vick’s exploits on the field for the Eagles might not prove as lasting a legacy as the hope he brought to inner-city Philadelphians during numerous appearances at schools and rec centers, some mandated by the terms of his probation, others done on his own. In the 300-plus-word farewell he issued last night, emailed to the Daily News and other outlets, Vick alluded to that bond. Here is part of what he had to say:

“I would like to thank the Eagles and the entire city of Philadelphia. I was honored to be your quarterback, and took the privilege to heart every day,” Vick wrote. “I especially want to thank Jeffrey Lurie and Andy Reid who gave me the opportunity. I want to thank my teammates, who were not just coworkers, but friends. I also want to thank the millions of Eagles fans who cheered and supported our team.

“People say Philadelphia fans are tough. I say you are fair. You are not judged solely by your past or by promises of the future. You are judged by your actions today, and the next day, and the next. I feel truly blessed to have played professional football in this great city.

“In my time volunteering, I have met Philadelphia’s heroes. I’ve met at-risk children with few resources, but with teachers tirelessly helping them make the most of a second chance at an alternative high school. I’ve seen the work of volunteers at school fundraisers, food drives, afterschool programs, hurricane shelters, Toys for Tots campaigns, Boys and Girls Clubs, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the meaningful work of the Humane Society of the United States.

"I’ve seen children choosing the mentorship of a football coach over peer pressure on a street corner. One of the best examples of a community deserving a second chance is the North Philadelphia Aztecs youth football team. These coaches teach the kids much more than football. As the players step on to Team Vick Field, they can hold their heads high and be proud that they are making Philly stronger.

"The Philadelphia Eagles are am outstanding organization with a bright future. For all the friendship, love and support you have given me and my family, thank you. I look forward to seeing great things both on the football field and in the Philadelphia community in the future."