The news and, in turn, the news conference had more levels than One Liberty Place.
When Michael Vick followed Eagles coach Andy Reid into the auditorium at the NovaCare Complex precisely at 11 a.m. yesterday, there were so many things that so many people wanted to know about the quarterback who had spent the last two seasons wearing prison No. 33765-183 rather than the No. 7 jersey he'll pull on today at practice as the newest member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Flanked by Reid on his right and former NFL coach Tony Dungy on his left, Vick calmly explained where he hopes his life goes from here while expressing his remorse for running the dogfighting ring that landed him a 23-month jail sentence, most of which was served at a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan.
"I know, as we all know, in the past I have made some mistakes," Vick told an overflowing media audience. "I have done some terrible things. I made a horrible mistake. And now I want to be part of the solution and not the problem."
When Vick, Reid and Dungy left the room, Jeffrey Lurie entered and went into a 13-minute monologue about how he wrestled with the idea before agreeing to the most controversial player signing of his tenure as Eagles owner.
"This took a lot of soul-searching for me," Lurie said. "I was asked to approve Michael Vick joining a very proud organization several days ago. Sometimes in life you have to make extremely difficult and soul-searching decisions where there is no right answer. There are probably a lot of wrong answers, but there is no clear path and no right answer. This is one of them."
As the owner continued, he slammed the actions that landed his newest player in prison.
"Anybody who knows me personally knows I'm an extreme dog lover," Lurie said.
He described Vick's dogfighting ring as "horrific behavior" and added that he didn't "have the words to describe the cruelty, the torture, the complete disregard for any definition of common decency."
It was hardly a hearty welcome to the Philadelphia Eagles family, but Lurie said he decided to be the notorious owner to give Vick a second chance after long discussions with Reid, Dungy and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who conditionally reinstated the three-time Pro Bowler the day after the Eagles opened training camp late last month.
Ultimately, it may have been his conversations with Vick that sealed the deal for Lurie.
"In spending time with Michael, I think he deserves that opportunity," Lurie said. "He's going to have to prove it in actions, not in words. I can only read his eyes so much. I can only read his emotions so much and the words. He's going to have to prove to Philadelphia, to the United States, to the NFL, to human beings and animals everywhere that he is a man committed . . . to save more animals than he has been responsible for eliminating."
Vick, after thanking Lurie and Reid for giving him the second chance many people don't think he deserves, said he intended to make good on a personal campaign that he has already started.
"I am making conscious efforts . . . working with the Humane Society," Vick said. "Hopefully, I can do that locally and continue with my disciplined efforts in bringing awareness to animal cruelty and dogfighting in the inner cities and our communities."
Another parade of thanks followed, starting with Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who said Thursday night he had lobbied for the team to sign Vick.
"I want to say a special thanks to Donovan McNabb," Vick said. "He's a great friend . . . for reaching out to Andy and giving Andy time to think about the decision that he made. I know now that playing in the NFL is a privilege and not a right and I want to do whatever is necessary to be the best ambassador for the NFL and the community."
His words seemed sincere, but they didn't stop the cascade of difficult questions that followed once he was done with his opening statement.
The first of 17 questions directed at Vick: Why did he commit the awful acts that sent him to prison?
"I made poor decisions in my life and I had to reach a turning point and prison definitely did it for me," the 29-year-old quarterback said.
He answered a question about his return by calling it "a surreal feeling" and promised that "I won't disappoint."
Two questions later, Vick was asked how he thinks he can convert the doubters, many of whom are angry that the Eagles have punched his ticket back into the NFL.
"I was wrong for what I did," Vick said. "Everything that happened at that point and time in my life was wrong and unnecessary. And for the life of me to this day, I can't understand why I was involved in such a pointless activity and why I risked so much at the pinnacle of my career. I was naive to a lot of things, but I figure if I can help more animals than I hurt, then I am contributing, I am doing my part."
More difficult questions followed.
Why does Vick think he deserves a second chance?
"I think everybody deserves a second chance," he said. "I think as long as you are willing to come back and do it the right way and do the right things and you're committed, then I think you deserve it. But you only get one shot at a second chance and I'm conscious of that."
There were a few questions about football, too, which the Eagles admit is the primary reason they have decided to gamble on a man who has committed "horrific" acts. The football reward, they decided after extensive discussion about Vick's character, outweighs the risk.
"First of all, we obviously did our homework on the background part," said Reid, the driving force behind the Eagles' decision. "I think we know Michael Vick is, and I'm speaking in the past – a few years ago – was one of the greatest quarterbacks in the National Football League.
"He has tremendous athletic ability and I've always said to the people of Philadelphia that I would try to bring in the best players who could help our football team achieve the highest goal, and that's a Super Bowl. Michael will contribute. You can ask defensive coordinators on other teams if they're worried about that."
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