Vick feels the brotherly love in his Eagles debut
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — It’s been a long time since Michael Vick heard such sweet sounds.
As Vick entered Thursday night’s preseason game against Jacksonville on the second play from scrimmage, many in the crowd stood and cheered. Although he never acknowledged the support, Vick was thrilled about the reception from the Philadelphia fans.
“I can’t explain the feeling,” Vick said after a six-play stint in the Eagles’ 33-32 victory over the Jaguars. “It was unbelievable the way I was embraced.
“It was a great day for me all around.”
Nobody could be sure what to expect in Vick’s return to the game after serving 18 months in prison for his involvement in a dogfighting ring. For the former star quarterback who last played on the final day of 2006, everything except his understandably rusty performance was positive.
There were no boos and no banners decrying Vick’s dogfighting pursuits. Nor were there any organized protests by animal rights advocates.
The distractions came on the field. Vick took five snaps in the shotgun and lined up once as a slot receiver against Jacksonville. Philly’s offense generally was ineffective with Vick on the field, and far more efficient when he was standing in coach Andy Reid’s shadow on the sideline, watching Donovan McNabb handle the quarterbacking.
Sure, the Eagles were plenty sloppy, having trouble holding onto the ball and letting the Jaguars break some big plays. But they seemed especially befuddled by most of the gimmicks Reid used involving Vick.
“When you try something new, it’s important to get into a rhythm,” McNabb said. “Move the chains, and then show them something new.”
Still, there was no doubt how Philly fans felt about having Vick on their team. And he noticed, even admitting he messed up one play because he was trying to please the crowd.
“Running onto the field, I was listening to what the reaction would be and it was very positive,” he said. “I didn’t expect that reaction.
“First off, I never envisioned myself in a Philadelphia Eagles uniform. It was kind of a surreal feeling coming out of the locker room.”
Vick was all business as he entered the huddle seconds into the game. Reid had promised to use Vick early, and he was good to his word.
Reid also made Vick’s initial play an easy one: a shovel pass to rookie LeSean McCoy that went for 4 yards.
Vick came on for five more plays in the opening half, and each time there was an audible buzz in the Linc.
“Yeah, the fans see him as an asset to this team,” receiver DeSean Jackson said.
On his third play, in the midst of the Eagles’ 68-yard drive to a 31-yard field goal, Vick actually replaced McNabb at quarterback. On the previous two, McNabb split out wide, but Vick never looked his way.
Without McNabb on the field — calm down, Vick is not usurping the incumbent’s job — the newcomer made his best play, a 13-yard completion to Hank Baskett. He didn’t celebrate with any fist pumps or chest bumps; Vick headed right back to the sideline.
He did have a lively conversation with Jackson while the Jaguars were conducting a long touchdown drive. And during Philadelphia’s 57-yard drive to the Jags 1, Vick took on a cheerleader’s role, clapping his hands with his helmet askew on top of his head.
That drive ended ignominiously when McNabb’s lateral to McCoy was mishandled and returned 92 yards for a Jaguars touchdown. When the Eagles staged another long drive at the end of the half, a helmetless Vick once more was clapping and cheering — but not playing.
Nor did he get on the field in the second half. Wearing a baseball cap, he alternated between sitting on the benches or watching the action with the assistant coaches from the sideline.
If Vick noticed the smattering of No. 7 jerseys with his name on them in the stands, he never reacted to those fans — or any others. During warmups, the only time he became somewhat animated was when former NFL coach Herman Edwards, on hand as a TV commentator, walked over to hug Vick and McNabb. All three were smiling broadly as Edwards joked with them.
As for any expected protests from animal rights groups near the stadium or even inside, nothing materialized. Perhaps next week, when the Eagles travel to the Meadowlands to conclude the preseason against the Jets. Or maybe when Vick is cleared to play during the season by commissioner Roger Goodell, which could happen by mid-October or sooner.
For now, Vick has those six plays, and the warm welcome from the fans.
“This was something I was looking forward to for a long time,” Vick said. “To play in a game, regardless of preseason or regular season — it’s been a long journey for me.”
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.