Vick returns to work

Furor missing from his debut with Eagles

By Rob Maaddi
Associated Press / August 28, 2009

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PHILADELPHIA - All eyes were on Michael Vick - for all of six plays.

Playing his first NFL game since his release from prison, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback got a standing ovation, avoided any ugly protests, and completed four passes for 19 yards.

“It’s been a long journey for me,’’ Vick said. “I just want to do it right this time around.’’

Though his minutes were limited last night, Vick was ready to take on any assignment. He played quarterback, ran the Wildcat formation, lined up at wide receiver, and even completed a pass righthanded.

The Eagles even won the game, beating Jacksonville, 33-32, on David Akers’s 34-yard field goal with 15 seconds to play. Vick’s return overshadowed a somewhat sloppy effort by an Eagles team that has Super Bowl aspirations.

It was Vick and only Vick who captured fans’ attention - whether he was on the field, on the sideline, or on the bench.

Philadelphia coach Andy Reid didn’t wait long to use him. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback jogged onto the field for the second play from scrimmage, lining up as a wide receiver, and got a hearty welcome from the notoriously tough Philly fans.

“When I was running out onto the field I was listening to see what the reaction was going to be,’’ Vick said. “I was very pleased. I really didn’t expect that reaction, but I was very thankful.’’

So much for all those protesters and anti-Vick factions. He entered to a standing ovation from the crowd in a half-empty stadium.

He was on the field for six plays - all in the opening 18 minutes. The results were so-so. He completed all four of his passes for 19 yards and ran for 1 yard.

“I just want to help this football team win, whatever I have to do,’’ Vick said. “I just want to be able to make plays and say that I contributed.’’

Vick completed a 4-yard shovel pass to rookie LeSean McCoy on his first play. He ran for 1 yard on his second play, and was a decoy as a wideout on his third play.

With Donovan McNabb standing on the sideline, Vick then completed a 13-yard pass to Hank Baskett to the Jaguars’ 11. Akers kicked a 31-yard field goal a few plays later.

Vick acknowledged he’s still working on his fitness, saying he was at about 70 percent.

“Once I get myself into tip-top shape, the sky’s the limit,’’ he said. “When I was younger I did it all. I can do it all now. Down the road, I’ll be back at the quarterback position full time. As of right now, I have to do what I can to win.’’

Vick hadn’t played in an NFL game since Dec. 31, 2006, with Atlanta. He was released from federal custody July 20 after serving 18 months of a 23-month sentence for his role in running a dogfighting ring. He signed a one-year, $1.6 million contract with the Eagles, who hold a $5.2 million option for a second season.

Though he showed little emotion at first, Vick loosened up as the game wore on and even flashed an occasional smile. With Vick, the Eagles scored 3 points. Without him, they moved the ball far more efficiently.

McNabb completed 21 of 36 passes for 244 yards and one touchdown. He also threw one interception and his fumble on a backward pass was returned 92 yards for a score by Brian Iwuh.

Akers’s winning completed the Eagles’ comeback after they trailed, 32-20, with 12:20 to play.

The explosive debate that has consumed the city since his arrival played out on a much smaller and subdued scale. The local NAACP’s planned march outside Lincoln Financial Field to support Vick did not materialize, although about a dozen members set up a table with banners supporting him.

Earlier, three women held a sign saying, “Murderers are not role models,’’ with an image of a dog and a bloody paw.

Hours before the game, in Newport News, Va., a judge approved Vick’s plan to repay creditors $20 million and emerge from bankruptcy.

US Bankruptcy Judge Frank J. Santoro said although Vick is “at the pinnacle of his profession,’’ he has proven unable to manage his finances in the past and ordered him to retain a financial planner as a condition of approval. The reorganization was overwhelmingly approved in a ballot of creditors and by their representatives in court.

Vick, 29, left the court soon after with his fiancee, Kijafa Frink, to catch a flight back to Philadelphia.

“I’m happy it’s over. I can move on with my life,’’ said Vick, who was beaming as he left the courthouse. “I think my lawyers did a great job. I commend the judge. I commend the creditors’ committee, everybody.’’

The plan approved by Santoro was supported by all but one creditor, which is owed $13,000. It hinges on Vick liquidating an estimated $9 million in assets.

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