This is an article from the Feb. 8, 2010 issue
Michael Vick EAGLES BACKUP QB
Vick, who served 19 months in prison for running a dogfighting ring, played sparingly in 2009 after missing two seasons
Dan Patrick:Can you play the same backup role with the Eagles next year?
Michael Vick: It'd be a tough decision to make. I want to be a starter. If I had to [stay], then I would, but if another opportunity [to start] presented itself, that would be even better.
DP:Where do you rank right now among starting quarterbacks in the NFL?
MV: To be honest and not trying to sound arrogant, I still feel like I'm among the top 10. I'm confident in my skills. I'll go to the grave saying that.
DP:When you were in prison, were you a celebrity or a target?
MV: More of a celebrity. A lot of guys were kind of starstruck when I came in. For the most part I was treated fair. I had altercations, which is not out of the norm in prison. Because you've got 560 guys together every day, there are going to be conflicts.
DP:Did you sign autographs?
MV: Yeah, I won't lie. I signed a couple autographs when I was in prison. Maybe more than I should have.
DP:Which was the better feeling: being released from prison or being drafted?
MV: Released from prison. The only thing the draft offered me was the opportunity to play in the NFL. Which is great, but what being released from prison offered me was my life back, the ability to eat when I wanted to, go to sleep when I wanted to, go outside when I wanted to, to be around my kids and my family. That feeling [of getting that back] supersedes any feeling I've ever had in my life. I'll never forget that day.
DP:Did you play on the prison football team?
MV: You know what—we had one game with the prison football team. There were so many holes and divots that I would never go [back].
DP:Were you the quarterback?
MV: Yeah, I was the quarterback for both teams.
DP:Were they allowed to hit you?
MV: I had a flag on, but they couldn't get the flag. I was getting rid of the ball quick.
DP:You said you grew up in a culture that included dogfighting. How old were you when you saw your first dogfight?
MV: I was seven. It wasn't organized, but it was just taking place in an open area in the neighborhood. But saying it was part of our culture was no excuse. It doesn't override the fact that we should have known better.
DP:If you didn't get caught, would you still be dogfighting?
MV: That's the scary thing. I would have continued to put my life in jeopardy. I would have continued to be involved.
DP:Do your kids have a pet dog?
MV: No, I can't have a dog.
DP:Do they ask for one?
MV: They ask all the time. That's just something I have to deal with. I feel bad, first, for what I've done. And second, because I have to tell my kids that they can't have a dog because of my wrongdoings.
DP: Were you in prison when one of your children was born?
MV: Actually, it was worse. I was in prison a month after she was born. I had a chance to spend time with her, then I had to leave. I've been punished for all the wrongdoings and everything that I've done. But, hey, I deserved it.
Mike Holmgren's heart and mind are in Cleveland but his wardrobe remains in Seattle, where he was with the Seahawks for 10 years. The Browns' new president told me that he has hardly any clothes with him at his new digs, which led to an embarrassing meeting with owner Randy Lerner. Lerner said, "I've got to get you some Browns stuff." When Holmgren asked why, Lerner pointed to the blue Seahawks logo on his pullover. "I immediately threw everything [from Seattle] away," said Holmgren.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told me that he doesn't like the idea of forcing players to go to college for a year before turning pro. "If [a kid is] good enough, he should be allowed to come right out of high school," he said. "[But] if they go to college, they should be there long enough to take core courses that could eventually lead to a degree. Otherwise it's a sham."
Line of the week
Six-time Pro Bowler Jerome Bettis says there is one easy way to stop players from skipping the game. It comes down to—what else?—cash: "You have to offer them more money. If the players make 50 grand, 100 grand, that's different. But 25 grand? They can pass on that."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Maurice Jones-Drew talks about Tim Tebow.
2. NBAPA president Derek Fisher discusses Gilbert Arenas.
THE FINE PRINT: Serena Williams won the Australian Open. And thanks to the time change, she was back in the States before her threats reached a linesman.