PHILADELPHIA -- Thirty-three months after he last played in a regular season NFL game, Michael Vick returned to the field today on an overcast and intermittently rainy afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.
Vick, the former Atlanta Falcon whom the Eagles signed to a one-year, $1.6 million deal (with a $5 million team option for 2010) on August 16 -- four weeks after he had been released after serving an 18-month sentence at Kansas's Leavenworth prison on a federal dogfighting conviction -- was a reserve quarterback for Philadelphia, but was on the field for eleven plays as head coach Andy Reid sought to utilize him in a variety of formations against the Kansas City Chiefs. Vick's NFL suspension expired after the season's first two weeks, and he today he attempted two passes (both of which fell incomplete), ran once for seven yards and handed the ball off seven times, as the Eagles won 34-14 (
An injury to longtime starter Donovan McNabb, who suffered a broken rib in the Eagles' Week 1 victory over the Carolina Panthers, meant that third-year quarterback Kevin Kolb started the game, but also ensured that Vick would see the field. Head coach Andy Reid first called upon Vick on the Eagles' second offensive play, when, as the home fans cheered wildly -- there were no more than a few dozen animal rights protesters outside the stadium, and no sign of them inside -- he split out wide to the right as a receiver. He sprinted across the field and Kolb faked a handoff to him before rookie running back LeSean McCoy, who started the game in place of the injured Brian Westbrook, received the carry and ran for a loss of one yard.
"We wanted to get him in, just gradually get him in a game and knock some rust off," Reid said afterwards. "I think he was excited to get out and play."
Later in the first quarter, Reid inserted Vick at first and goal from the five-yard line, as the Eagles were driving for their first points. Vick took the snap and attempted his first pass, a lob to Leonard Weaver, under heavy Chiefs pressure. The ball was overthrown, but the Eagles scored on their next play, a five-yard run by McCoy. Vick's second pass fell incomplete at the feet of receiver Jason Avant. Kolb, meanwhile, finished the day 24-of-34 for 327 yards and two touchdowns.
When the Eagles signed Vick, they talked a lot about their concern about his transformation as a person. "My own measure of Michael Vick will be 100 percent, Is he able to create social change in this horrendous arena of animal cruelty?" owner Jeffrey Lurie, a self-professed dog-lover, said at Vick's introductory press conference. But football was the main concern -- indeed, the only concern -- on Sunday afternoon. Reid had promised on Friday to get Vick involved -- "I do have some things for him," the head coach said -- and Vick was used in a variety of different looks, even if his statistical impact was ultimately negligible.
The Chiefs didn't put up much of a fight, and at times the game seemed to be little more than an extremely well attended practice, as the Eagles toyed with an overmatched opponent. It remains to be seen how Reid will deploy Vick once McNabb, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, returns to action. That return might come as soon as two Sundays from now, when the Eagles, after a bye week, host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McNabb had first publicly welcomed Vick, who at 29 is four years younger than McNabb, to the Eagles, but later said that his presence was preventing the first-team offense from getting in enough pre-season practice time. In a recent interview with CBS, Vick admitted, "This is not the exact scenario I thought would play out. I thought I'd be playing with a team and actually starting."
Said Reid, after learning of Vick's remarks: "I will tell you this: I love quarterbacks that like to play. If they don't, then that's probably the wrong position to be in and the wrong profession to be in."
The last game in which Vick had played came on December 31, 2006, a 24-17 loss to the Eagles here in Philadelphia. Vick completed eight of 14 passes for 81 yards in that game, but left after spraining his right ankle on the first play of the third quarter. "It's disappointing because things didn't go the way we expected them to go," Vick said at the time of the Falcons' 7-9 finish.
What happened next, of course, was far more unexpected. "I'd be lying if I didn't say I was nervous," Vick said after his first game back. "This was a chance to get the jitters out of the way and get knocked around a few times." He accomplished that much; but with McNabb healing quickly, and a schedule that should stiffen notably as the season progresses, the Eagles' quarterback situation has only just begun to become interesting.