Call it a Philadelphia flier.
After weeks of conjecture involving at least half the teams in the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles finally stepped forward Thursday and signed controversial quarterback Michael Vick, taking a gamble on a once supremely talented player who hasn't set foot on the field since the 2006 season.
"I've seen people close to me have had second chances that have taken advantage of those," Eagles Coach Andy Reid said. "It's very important that people give them opportunities to prove that they can change. So we're doing that with Michael."
Vick, who last month was granted conditional reinstatement by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, signed a two-year deal with the Eagles, a franchise most observers had checked off the list of possible landing spots.
Under the reinstatement plan, Vick can participate in preseason practices, workouts, meetings, and play in Philadelphia's final two exhibition games. He could receive full reinstatement at any point, but Goodell said he would grant that by Week 6 at the latest, provided Vick lives up to his end of the agreement.
Philadelphia's Week 6 game is Oct. 18 at Oakland. Another significant date for the Eagles is Dec. 6, when they play at the Atlanta Falcons, Vick's former team.
Philadelphia's signing was somewhat dicey not only because it probably will generate significant public scorn -- Vick spent 18 months behind bars for running a dogfighting ring -- but also because the move has the potential down the road to destabilize the team's quarterback situation.
Reid was quick to emphasize that the addition of Vick will not change the pecking order at the position. Donovan McNabb remains the starter, although he was on shaky ground at times last season and was benched for the first time in his career.
What's more, the coach said, McNabb has been friends with Vick for years and even hosted him on a recruiting trip to Syracuse.
Later, McNabb referred to himself as a "mentor" to Vick, saying, "You want to set an example and lead people in the right direction.
"This is a better opportunity with him being here, to see how we work around here and ways we both can enhance our game . . . and be able to add a spark to this team. We've added some young guys at the skill position, and we're bringing in another guy who can help us in so many ways as well."
Of course there's no guarantee this is the same Michael Vick who was selected No. 1 overall and wound up getting to the Pro Bowl three times. His most recent season was a mixed bag, with him throwing for a career-high 20 touchdowns and becoming the first NFL quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards but also tying a career-worst mark with 13 interceptions and completing only 52.6% of his passes, second-lowest among regular starters.
Then there's the challenge of coming back, even at a relatively young 29, after being out of the game for three years. He could be most effective in the Wildcat scheme, because he's as elusive as a running back but with a much better arm.
"It looks like he's in good shape," Reid said. "I also know that when you're away from football awhile, there's a difference between being in shape and being in football shape."
More daunting is the public-relations challenge Vick and the Eagles are likely to face at home and on the road. The debate concerning whether he should be allowed to play rages still.
Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said he doesn't expect widespread protests and sees it as a good thing that Vick wound up in Philadelphia.
"It's a city we've been looking at very closely because it has a major dogfighting problem," Pacelle said in a phone interview. "So Vick's landing there has the potential to turn around the issue. This gives us a big boost."
The Eagles are looking for a boost too -- and are willing to take risks to find one. But Reid says he thinks they're calculated risks, ones he can control.
"There won't be a quarterback controversy," he said.
There will be a controversial quarterback, though. No outrunning that.
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Dogs to Eagles
A look at the dogfighting case against Michael Vick:
* 2002-07: Vick and his co-defendants establish "Bad Newz Kennels," host dogfights and participate in fights in other states.
* April 25, 2007: Police raid Vick's Virginia property and find several neglected pit bulls and evidence of dogfighting.
* July 17, 2007: Vick and others are charged by a federal grand jury in Richmond, Va.
* Aug. 23, 2007: Vick signs plea agreement, admitting to conspiracy in a dogfighting ring and helping kill pit bulls. He denies betting on the fights, only bankrolling them.
* Aug. 24, 2007: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspends Vick indefinitely without pay from the NFL.
* Dec. 10, 2007: Vick is sentenced to 23 months in federal prison.
* July 20, 2009: Vick is released from federal custody.
* July 27, 2009: Vick is conditionally reinstated by Goodell.
* Aug. 13, 2009: Vick signs a two-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Landing with the Eagles
Career stats for former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday.
*--* PASSING RUSHING STATISTICS STATISTICS Yr. G Comp-Att Pct. Yds TD-Int Yds Avg. TD 2001 8 50-113 44.2 785 2-3 289 9.3 1 2002 15 231-421 54.9 2,936 16-8 777 6.9 8 2003 5 50-100 50.0 585 4-3 255 6.4 1 2004 15 181-321 56.4 2,313 14-12 902 7.55 3 2005 15 214-387 55.3 2,412 15-13 597 5.9 6 2006 16 204-388 52.6 2,474 20-13 1,039 8.4 2 Total 74 930-1,730 53.8 11,505 71-52 3,859 7.3 21 *--*