It is not a scientific poll, but it is not insignificant, either. Football fans who chose to go on NFL.com and the NFL's Facebook page and cast their vote for who should go to the Pro Bowl overwhelmingly selected Michael Vick over every other player in the National Football League.
With that subset of fans, Vick is the most popular player in the NFL. More popular than Peyton Manning by nearly 39,000 votes. More popular than Tom Brady by more than 100,000 votes.
Because of his fearless style of play and his unparalleled athleticism, Vick was a super-popular player with the Atlanta Falcons, making three Pro Bowl appearances in six seasons. But his return to popularity after the revolting things he did to those dogs in Virginia is almost as surprising as his ascent to the top of his profession.
At least a certain portion of the football-loving population has either forgiven him, doesn't care, feels he has served his time and deserves another chance, or is so enamored with his play that it believes he warrants special recognition. It might be all of the above.
Vick is playing the best football of his career after spending a year and a half in a federal penitentiary for operating an illegal dogfighting operation. He has the league's second-best passer rating (105.7), and when he starts and finishes a game, the Eagles are 6-1.
At 8-4, the Birds are tied with the New York Giants atop the NFC East. They will need to win at least half of their remaining four games to reach the postseason - and probably more - and if they do, Vick could win the NFL's comeback player of the year award and perhaps be named the league MVP.
The season, the starting job, the Pro Bowl nod, it is all more than Vick thought possible. He said on Wednesday that after last season, he thought the Eagles would trade him. Vick claims he never saw any of this coming.
And now the Pro Bowl is a virtual lock. The fan balloting is one-third of the voting. Coaches and players hold the other two-thirds. Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware will get a firsthand look at Vick on Sunday when the Eagles play at Dallas, and he said regardless of what happens, Vick will get his Pro Bowl vote.
"A guy like Michael Vick, you're not going to hold him down," Ware said. "Especially with the athleticism he has. Maybe last year he was a little rusty just coming into the season. Now, he's gotten the reads. He knows what to do. . . . I mean, the sky is the limit for him. He's a totally different type of quarterback."
At this point, this should go without saying, there will always be some people who loathe Michael Vick and can't get past what he did to those dogs. They will blame Vick for every subsequent dog killing, for every kid gone bad. There are those who were lifelong Eagles fans who have renounced their allegiance to their team until Vick is no longer on it. Some may never go back.
But this is more proof that there is also a portion of the population that has gotten past Vick's illegal activity and is, as many were before his dogfighting operation came to light, smitten with Vick the player.
"I appreciate my fans," Vick said on Wednesday. "I couldn't do it without them. It's like I say I can't do it without the guys in the locker room, I can't do it without my fans. They've been very supportive over the last three years, man. What more can you ask for?"
Well, Eagles fans can ask for a Super Bowl appearance, but one thing at a time.
Michael Dorf is a 25-year-old Eagles fan and Penn State graduate from Yardley who said he was "disgusted by what [Vick] did to those animals" and never wanted Donovan McNabb traded in the first place.
On his Twitter page recently, Dorf wrote: "I look for every reason to dislike you @mikevick and to miss 5. I still love 5, but even he never played this consistently great. Keep it up." Dorf said he has been swayed by Vick's play as well as his commitment to speaking out against dogfighting.
"In the end, I'm happy to have Vick as my quarterback and am excited for a long-term contract," Dorf wrote in an e-mail. "Instead of expecting to win every game with McNabb, I expect to score every series with Vick."
Vick can never erase his past, but he continues to gain supporters, one week at a time. A fourth Pro Bowl nod "would mean more to me than any other," Vick said, but he doesn't really want to play in that game.
The Super Bowl is the next week. That is the game he really wants.
Contact columnist Ashley Fox
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