Michael Vick bantered around the practice field on Wednesday, smiling and laughing with his teammates, leading the offense through drills as the starting quarterback of the NFC.
Let that sink in for a second: Michael Vick. At the Pro Bowl. As the starting quarterback for the NFC.
It’s been a long journey since 2007, when Vick began serving those 21 months in a federal penitentiary for running the Bad Newz Kennels dogfighting ring. But here he is in Hawaii after posting the best season of his career.
From prison to the Pro Bowl — who’d have thunk it?
“This one feels great due to the fact that I’ve been through so much and trained to getting back to this position,” Vick said. “It’s paramount for me and my family, and I’m just thankful.”
There are many reasons to be.
When bankruptcy hit Vick in 2008 while he was still in prison, the end of Vick as an NFL quarterback seemed like a reality.
It was hard enough to get NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to give Vick a second chance, but Vick eventually got his reprieve upon his release with conditional reinstatement. He signed his two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles shortly thereafter, but nothing spectacular happened in 2009 — not with Donovan McNabb as the starter and Kevin Kolb filling in when McNabb was injured.
When McNabb was traded to Washington last offseason, Vick was elevated to Philadelphia’s No. 2 quarterback behind Kolb. And as fate would have it, Kolb went down with a concussion in Week 1. Vick’s opportunity had arrived. From there, the rest, as they say, is history.
“This is what you work for,” Vick said. “You work hard to put yourself in this position. It’s great. I’m ecstatic to be here. I feel like, you know, not only me, but the rest of my teammates worked very hard this season. I’ve got to give them a lot of credit for me being in this position.”
Not only that, but a lot of it goes to Marty Mornhinweg. The Eagles’ offensive coordinator reformed Vick, working diligently with him in the offseason and through training camp to make him a better all-around quarterback. The goal was to make Vick more patient in the pocket, not have him just take off at the first sign of trouble, as he so often did during his time with the Atlanta Falcons.
The result was a season in which Vick, who seized the starting job from Kolb after his concussion, threw for 3,019 yards (first time eclipsing that plateau) with career highs in passer rating (100.2) and touchdowns (21) while only throwing six interceptions in 12 starts. Vick still ran (for 679 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns), but he picked his spots wisely. And it’s because of the direction that Mornhinweg instilled in him last year.
“Marty has been great,” Vick said. “We have a great relationship. We work well together. We understand each other. He’s a coach that demands a lot out of the quarterback position, and I like that.”
Vick had himself a nice year in 2010 financially, all things considered. He’s set to receive a $1.9 million bonus for reaching certain contractual playing-time plateaus, NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reported Wednesday, citing a league source. And his base salary in 2010 was $3.75 million.
But with his two-year deal with Philadelphia finished, the question is whether or not Vick will be in an Eagles uniform next season.
“Hopefully, I’ll be with the Eagles next year, and we’ll see what happens,” Vick said. “We’ll see what happens over the next couple months. I just got to be patient and take it day by day.”
That mentality applies to enjoying his week in Hawaii.
“It’s great to be here,” said Vick, who just received his first endorsement deal since his release from prison. “I’m excited about it. I’m enjoying the guys and enjoying being out here playing football.”
That’s understandable. After all, there was a time when it seemed like that may never happen again.