Today’s signing of Michael Vick makes the Philadelphia Eagles the NFC favorite to reach the Super Bowl. He’ll back up quarterback Donovan McNabb — who actively lobbied for him to come — and serve as a weapon in all positions, from wide receiver to option quarterback to running back to kick returner. After losing in the NFC Championship Game last year, the Eagles have spent the off-season getting buff: They’re going to blur past defenders all season. Which is the perfect situation for Vick: The team is established and stable, with leaders in place. He merely has to play. The players have expressed their support, and he should fall right in when he arrives at training camp on Sunday.
Of course, that’s far from the whole story. After all, it’s not every day that a football transaction requires prior consultation with the mayor.
Whoever signed Vick — and somebody would have — knew they would face complaints. Protesters lined up outside Vick’s 11 a.m. press conference this morning, and some strong words are expected from prominent Pennsylvania SPCA board member Jen Utley, who happens to be married to Phillies all-star second-baseman Chase Utley. A “Boycott the Eagles” Twitter feed has already launched, and ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio said on SportsCenter that Philadelphia, as a community, was “outraged” by Vick’s signing. (Paolantonio has loudly criticized Vick for years, and much of the outrage he heard was on sports radio.)
In a signature Philadelphia Inquirer column, Phil Sheridan writes, “I received the e-mail about Vick's reinstatement by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell while waiting for my dog to finish his first chemotherapy treatment. I'm sitting in a sterile waiting room, worried sick about a 7-year-old Shih Tzu named Pogue, and a guy who oversaw the torture and murder of dozens of animals is getting cleared to play in the NFL. Let's just say the news rubbed me the wrong way at that moment.” The Philadelphia Daily News’ headline? “Hide Your Dogs.”
Vick wraps up his contrition tour this Sunday with the airing of an interview with James Brown on 60 Minutes, in which Brown asks Vick, “What about the dogs, Mike? WHAT ABOUT THE DOGS?” And then he’ll hit the field. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has yet to reinstate him to the league, but he’s expected to do so no later than week six. There are those who think Vick shouldn’t be allowed to play football again, but he did serve 23 months in prison for a crime most people don’t do serious time for. Not allowing Vick to return to the NFL would be hypocritical — they have let people who have killed humans rejoin the league, for cripes sake.
Vick is back, and he’s with the Eagles. They’re the ones who will take this hit. And yeah: They better make the Super Bowl this year.