EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Michael Vick got reinstated, booed, scored a touchdown and threw an interception, roughly in that order, all before halftime of last night's Eagles preseason finale, a 38-27 loss to the New York Jets. In the second half, Vick actually put together successive series in a conventional quarterback role, with no gimmickry.
"I didn't even know what to do with myself," after scoring on a 2-yard run, Vick said. "I always told myself I was going to keep the ball, I was going to hand it to an offensive lineman and spike it. I got up [from the pile] and I just lost it. My mind went blank and I just ran off the field, like nothing had happened. I went through so many different scenarios in my mind. But it was great. It was gratifying to get into the end zone."
All told, it was quite a trip to the Greater New York area for the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who now will not play again until Sept. 27, a home game against Kansas City.
Vick's day began with a meeting in the team's North Jersey hotel, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sitting down with Vick and Eagles coach Andy Reid. Goodell then spoke on the phone with Vick's league-appointed adviser, Tony Dungy.
"He's demonstrated he's committed," Goodell told reporters in announcing Vick would be reinstated for the third week of the season. That will be Vick's first regular-season game since the final contest of 2006, when he was an Atlanta Falcons superstar, before he served 18 months in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting ring.
Vick said Goodell didn't announce a decision at their meeting, that Reid gave him the news about 3 hours later.
"I think [Goodell] came out of [the meeting] feeling very confident that Michael is doing the right things and on the right track, and that two games was kind of a reasonable outcome," Eagles president Joe Banner said when he met with reporters before last night's game.
"I've been trying to show [Goodell] I'm moving in the right direction," Vick said. "I'm changing my life for the better, I'm doing all the things that professional athletes are supposed to do."
"We obviously respect his decision 100 percent and support it," Reid said after the game, in which Vick quarterbacked the entire third quarter and all but the final series of the fourth.
Banner and Reid said the Eagles haven't decided how they will address Vick's suspension in setting their roster, which must be at the regular-season limit of 53 by 6 p.m. tomorrow. If Vick is on the roster, they must open the season with only 52 eligible players. They can put him on the exempt list, but that would prohibit him from practicing, which would make playing against the Chiefs pretty difficult.
The Eagles have to decide whether they can afford to trade a quarterback - presumably A.J. Feeley - before Vick becomes eligible to play. They might gamble with two eligible QBs. Or, they could trade Feeley and assume that twice-cut Adam DiMichele isn't doing anything he wouldn't mind giving up for a few weeks, to make an NFL salary.
"I think Michael wants to play as soon as he can. On the other hand, I think he thinks this is fair, and probably in the range that was expected," Banner said. "We appreciate the commissioner's thoughtfulness. We think this is a good outcome, and we look forward to having him."
Vick, however, said he was "surprised" to not be eligible for the first two games, though he also said that he would have supported an even longer suspension, had one been ordered. He said being able to practice during the suspension would be "very important" to him - so put Vick down as opposing the exempt list option.
"Being able to practice, go out there and continue to get a feel for the offense, work on the small things, ball security and things of this nature - it's very important, at this point," Vick said. "It's the small things right now that I have to work on. And the good thing is, they're all correctable."
Banner said Vick, signed 3 weeks ago yesterday, "has been a model citizen to this point . . . He's doing everything we could have asked him to do."
Asked if the reinstatement represented "closure" for Vick, Banner said: "It brings closure to this suspension, and to the time he's had to be away from football . . . I think Michael realizes it'll be a long time before he can put this in the rearview mirror. I'm not sure it'll ever go away, but at least [this will] kind of put it behind him and [he will] be charting a new path, creating a new definition for himself."
Asked about the promised community work with animal-rights related charities, Banner said: "I think you'll see Michael at an event here very soon - I think we'll be announcing something as soon as we wrap up some details."
Last night, Vick's first-half role was pretty much what it had been in his debut the week before, minus the gesturing from Donovan McNabb about the need to get back down to business. (And with the addition of underwhelming but persistent booing from the Jets' crowd, each time Vick took the field.)
Vick came in on second down, usually quarterbacking from the shotgun, with starting QB Kevin Kolb either lined up in the slot or split wide. But Vick did not complete either of his first-half passes - at least not to an Eagle; one of them was picked off in the end zone by Dwight Lowery. Vick's four rushes went for 9 yards and a touchdown, scored after he faked a handoff and ran 2 yards up the middle.
In the second half, Vick played a lot under center, with very mixed results. From the Eagles' 26, on third-and-8, he scrambled out of a sack, then back into a sack, recovering his own fumble in the process, but losing 22 yards. He converted some third downs, but his seven completions (in 11 attempts) went for just 26 yards, with a long gain of 9. Vick fumbled the ball away on a blindside sack, one of four he took from a blitzing Jets' defense; some of his problems might have had to do with a supporting cast that will largely be off the team once the cuts come.
"I think I played fairly well - a lot of things I could have done better," Vick said. "But it was good to get out there and play some quarterback on a consistent basis, and shake off some cobwebs."
Asked how close he is to being the player he once was, Vick said: "I still think I'm a couple weeks away. I'll use this time to get myself in shape, build my endurance, continue to strengthen my legs, continue to work my mind, in the offense."
"I thought it was great to get him the work," said Reid, who added: "I'm sure he'll be a little sore tomorrow, but that's OK; he'll have a couple weeks to recover from it."
Reid said Vick showed "he still has a little juice in those legs."
Right tackle Winston Justice left early in the game with what the Eagles described as a chest injury. Cornerback Dimitri Patterson later went down with an ankle injury. Patterson, an undrafted rookie who has had a pretty good preseason, might be a candidate for the injured reserve list. Andy Reid said both players will undergo MRI tests today . . . Somebody named Danny Woodhead gained 149 yards on his first 14 carries last night, against Eagles reserves. He looked darned good doing it . . . Why did the Eagles decide Sav Rocca didn't need any preseason competition, again? . . . Vick said last night's booing was "part of the game . . . I understand it's a part of what I have to deal with, and what any quarterback around this league has to put up with."
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