During their conversations, after Michael Vick was released from prison, Donovan McNabb never told the notorious quarterback the plan that he was formulating.

Which might not have been a bad idea considering how far-fetched it may have seemed a month ago.

But in July, as Vick was serving the final days of house arrest, McNabb approached Eagles coach Andy Reid and tossed out an idea that didn't fall to the turf.

"I said, 'Why don't we think about signing Vick and bringing him into camp, and he'll get an opportunity to get his feet up under him, I'll get a chance to work with him, and he'll get a chance to learn from the best?' " McNabb said yesterday before practice at the NovaCare Complex. "Obviously, at that time, nobody wanted to put it out there if they were interested."

McNabb said he thought Reid was intrigued by the thought, although McNabb couldn't initially decipher if the coach had already hatched his own plan. Team president Joe Banner had said it was Reid who first brought up the idea.

"When I brought it to his attention, it was just kind of breath in the air," McNabb said. "I thought I'd toss it to him and see what he thought."

A few weeks later, after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell lifted Vick's suspension, McNabb said he floated the proposal to Reid again.

"I just kind of reassured him a couple weeks later and just said, 'What do you think about Vick? I think it would be a great opportunity for him,' " McNabb said.

It may be a concept difficult to wrap one's mind around: starting quarterback lobbies for team to bring in talented quarterback/potential headache.

"I don't understand why," McNabb said. "It wouldn't be any different with [backup] Kevin [Kolb]. I've been through many situations throughout my career where if I got injured or someone wasn't liking the way I was playing, they cheered for the backup."

The list is long: Koy Detmer, A.J. Feeley, Mike McMahon, Jeff Garcia, Kolb, and now, perhaps, Vick.

Despite the presumption that Vick will be used in the Wildcat formation, the former Falcon continues to practice only as a quarterback. In his first two days of practice, Vick was used sparingly. Yesterday he did more, running with the third team during the second half of practice. Feeley took snaps with the second team as Kolb continued to recover from a sprained ligament in his left knee.

"You can tell he's getting more comfortable with the situation as time goes on," said wide receiver Danny Amendola, often a target of Vick's passes. "He's looking good."

But it seems unlikely that the Eagles brought Vick in just to be the third-stringer. Reid has said Vick will likely be used in the Wildcat. Last year, Miami used the scheme, in which a player takes a direct snap with the option to run or pass, on 12 percent of its offensive plays. That equates to about seven snaps a game.

"As you can see, it helped Miami last year, from winning one game to winning [11] last year," McNabb said. "If that was the direction we were going in, I wouldn't have a problem with it at all."

McNabb did have a problem with Vick's deeds, which landed him in a federal jail cell for 18 months. When allegations of Vick's running a dogfighting operation were first made, however, McNabb said he didn't make any assumptions or conclusions until he had done his research.

"Some people grew up with that, some people can't pull themselves away from that, some people can," McNabb said. "In that situation he didn't, and he served his time and paid the consequence."

But what about some of the more gruesome details surrounding Vick's case, in which dogs were electrocuted and he admitted to hanging dogs?

"You hear a lot of different things, and you don't know actually what happened," McNabb said. "I don't know what was happening, but I think that's cruel and that stuff should not happen. Again, he served his time. He paid the price. And now it's time for him to move on."

During their phone conversations this summer, McNabb became convinced that Vick was ready to be rehabilitated, and that the Eagles could be the team to help him.

Asked if he had suggested the team take the same course with friend and former Giants receiver Plaxico Burress, who was recently indicted on felony weapons charges, McNabb joked, "I did. I brought [Terrell Owens] here."