When Michael Vick was named the Eagles' recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award yesterday - a distinction he received in a vote by his teammates - it didn't take long for the selection to draw criticism.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal-rights organization, released a statement yesterday condemning the honor being given to Vick. PETA has been critical of the NFL and the Eagles since Vick was reinstated after serving 18 months for his role in a dogfighting operation.
"The Philadelphia Eagles fumbled when they gave Michael Vick the Ed Block Courage Award, which was named after a man who advocated in behalf of abused children," the statement from PETA read.
"Michael Vick should not be the person anyone points to as a model of sportsmanship, even though he has now exchanged dogs for touchdowns after serving time for extreme cruelty to animals. We wish him well in educating others, but this is not appropriate and does not mark a joyous moment in NFL history."
The Ed Block is an annual award given by each NFL team in memory of the former Baltimore Colts trainer. It is usually awarded to a player that has shown courage in rebounding from an injury or overcoming extraordinary difficulties. Past Eagles winners include long-snapper Jon Dorenbos, whose mother was murdered by his father when he was 12, and Correll Buckhalter, now with Denver who came back from several knee injuries.
Vick, who did not practice yesterday because of a quadriceps bruise, said he appreciated the gesture by his teammates.
"I've had to overcome a lot, more than probably one single individual can bear," Vick said. "Take a look at what I've been through. You ask certain people to walk in my shoes, they probably couldn't do it. Probably 95 percent of the people in this world - because nobody had to endure what I've been through, situations I've been put in, situations I've placed myself in, decisions that I've made - whether they were good or bad."
Eagles coach Andy Reid, who said the vote was unanimous, was asked if he was worried about how his players' selection would be interpreted in light of the quarterback's past.
"I'm not sure you can explain it, unless you've kind of gone through it here with him," Reid said. "Everybody is going to have their opinion on it I'm sure. Until you've been with him for the hours that his teammates have been with him and seen him through all these different things that he's had to go through, that time-tested part of it, you can't appreciate it. I don't expect everybody to understand it."
Donovan McNabb, who lobbied Reid to acquire Vick, said the honor was "well deserved."
"I don't care what people say on the outside," McNabb said. "That was something voted on by his peers."
Moise Fokou said yesterday that he was still practicing at strong-side linebacker with the first-team defense.
The rookie replaced starter Chris Gocong last week against San Francisco and recorded two tackles. Gocong had been the starter since the start of the 2007. In 13 games this season, he has recorded 50 tackles, ninth best on the team.
Gocong said that he didn't think he was being made a scapegoat for the defense's problems two weeks ago against the New York Giants in the Eagles' 45-38 win.
"No, I understand that this is the NFL, and whether it's they ask you to start [middle linebacker] or they ask you to run kickoffs and run punt returns, you're happy to have a job," Gocong said.
The fourth-year pro was moved inside against San Diego on Nov. 15 as the Eagles tried to find a solution to their middle linebacker problem. At the time, Gocong was one game removed from missing a week because of a hamstring injury and the experiment at middle linebacker lasted just one game. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has used several different alignments at linebacker this season.
"That's the crazy thing about it," Gocong said. "Week to week it's always switching."