This was not your standard free-agent signing introductory press conference.
The Eagles did not have a jersey with the No. 7 hung in front of the newly-acquired Michael Vick. There weren't many questions about football. And normally there aren't protestors picketing the acquisition of a quarterback that hasn't play in the NFL in over two-and-a-half years.
The Eagles introduced Michael Vick to Philadelphia this morning as their new [fill in the blank]. "Fill in the blank" because no one quite knows how the team will exactly employ the multi-faceted Vick. That was of secondary concern, however, during what can only be described as a surreal news conference.
Vick, predictably, was contrite about his past sins. The former Atlanta Falcon was convicted in August 2007 of conspiracy and running a dogfighting operation. He spent 20 months in prison, two more under house arrest. Today he asked for what Tony Dungy said the Eagles had bestowed upon the 29-year-old: "Christian forgiveness."
"I want to be part of the solution, not the problem," said Vick, who appeared nervous during a 25-minute press conference. Later on Vick added, "Why did I risk so much at the pinnacle of my career?"
Speaking of risk, many are asking why the Eagles orginization would take such a risk in bringing in a player that may never play and that could bring more angst than joy. Owner Jeffrey Lurie spoke for 20 minutes, he said, "From the heart, from the hip."
Lurie described himself as a dog lover. He said he recently watched two of his dogs die. He and his wife, Christina, who was also in attendance, recently rescued two dogs from a shelter for animals that were abused. He described Vick's actions as "horrific behavior."
"This took a lot of soul searching for me," Lurie said. He said it took a lot of convincing for coach Andy Reid to get him to sign off on the decision. Lurie met with Reid, former Colts coach and Vick advisor Tony Dungy and NFL commissioner Roger Goddell and came away not as put off by the idea. He then, he said, spent a lot of time with Vick and wanted to see if he had "had enough self-hatred for me."
Apparently, Vick hated himself enough to Lurie's liking. Lurie also felt that Vick could be an "agent for change," and that he could give back to animals in as much a way as he had taken away.
Still, Lurie admitted, there would be backlash. Already there are reports of Eagles season tickets holders putting up their seats on ebay and Craigslist because of their disgust of the team's decision to sign Vick. Reid was asked about this and said that he had not heard of this recent development.
"I think the majority of the public wants Michael to do well," Reid said. According to the latest philly.com poll, guaging reaction either for or against, 52.6 percent (13,291 votes) were against and 47.4 percent (11,985 votes) were in favor of the move.
Lurie acknowledged that there would be many fans against this move. He also said that there would be many for it. "Some of the best decisions made have been the ones most unpopular," Lurie said.
This past off-season the Eagles fired a part-time stadium employee who had criticized the team for not keeping safety Brian Dawkins, who signed with Denver as a free agent. Reid was asked if the Eagles should have given that man a second chance much in the same way that they are currently giving Vick another go. Reid dismissed the questioner. "This is about Michael Vick," he said.
Vick knows he may only get this one chance. "You only get a second chance once," he said.
It'll be interesting to see when he gets that chance and where it will occur. Neither Reid, Vick nor his people know when Goddell will reenact the seven-year pro. He can practice immediately and play in the last two preseason games. Goddell said that he will review Vick's case by Week 6 of the regular season. That potentially means he could look at it earlier.
As for where Vick will play, no one quite knows. He said he's in good shape. But NFL shape? Only time will tell. He said he's willing to play anywhere Reid wants him. It won't be as the first-string quarterback, though. That's Donovan McNabb's job. But he could line up at wide receiver, in the backfield, occassionally under center -- maybe all three on one down. Reid, as usual, was keeping his cards close.
"I'm just content with playing," Vick said. His agent, Joel Segal, said that there were two other teams involved. He said that they offered more possible playing time, maybe even as a starter. Vick said he chose the Eagles because "it's one of the flagship organizations in the NFL."
UPDATE: Goddell just released a statement. It reads: "I have said several times in recent weeks that I want Michael to be one of the NFL's success stories as an individual and as a football player. I believe he can accomplish both goals with the Eagles organization which has done an outstanding job in the community and on the field these last 15 years under the direction of owner Jeffrey Lurie. I know the Eagles will provide strong support but, ultimately, Michael’s success is up to him and the decisions he makes."