By Kristian R. Dyer
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — For Michael Vick, a redemptive season last year is followed by the uncertainty of 2011, but the suddenly humble and quiet Eagles quarterback is unshaken by the prospect of a work stoppage or even his future with the Eagles. When you've been through the things Vick has put himself through, you don't wonder about the future.
You simply embrace it.
Vick was offered a one-year franchise tender by the Eagles, a contract that most likely will pay him roughly $20 million dollars next season. Vick was in Atlantic City last Friday for the Maxwell Football Club's award dinner, where he was named the Bert Bell Award winner as the organization's NFL Player of the Year. The Eagles were the team that pursued Vick the hardest after he missed two years of football due to prison time served in connection with a dogfighting ring. It is a city that has embraced him, looking beyond the past and hoping that he can turn around a franchise that has been a bridesmaid all too often.
The Eagles took an awfully big gamble when they signed him two years ago.
In return, Vick assumed the starting quarterback role for the Eagles in his second season, leading Philadelphia into the playoffs and perhaps putting an exclamation point on a long road back. The tender offered by the Eagles is something that ensures that Vick, who in 2010 topped 3,000 yards passing for the first time in his career and had the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in his career, will be back in green next season.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity to come back and play in the city of Philadelphia. When I first signed with Philadelphia, I didn't think it'd last this long," Vick said. "I thought it'd last one year and now three years, I'm here."
It is clear, however, that Vick wants to commit long term to the franchise. He's a game changer at quarterback, someone who can take over the offense and systematically march down the field using both his elusive feet and his powerful arm. As he enters Year Three in Philadelphia, he is feeling brotherly love for the team and head coach Andy Reid.
"We haven't talked about long-term negotiations really, about my future. We've just talked about what we can get done this year. Anything else that happens is solely on me. I think I dictate that situation based on my playing performance, my actions on and off the field. That ball is in my court," Vick said. "I'd love to finish my career with Andy. That's the nature of the business, you never know what's going to happen. You control what you can control."
The "control" is still a large question mark around a player who is still dogged by the issues of the past and is still battling legal issues. But Vick, quiet and composed and speaking with certainty, talked about the need for him to live up to his own end of the bargain and to produce in no uncertain terms in both his professional and personal life. A long journey that took him from a backyard dogfighting ring to behind bars and now to being the toast of Philadelphia, and even the NFL, has given him a chance to live life unleashed.
With hands in pocket just feet away from where Vick is standing, former college coach Frank Beamer looks at the glow of cameras and the thrusting arms of microphones in Vick's face and shakes his head. A seriousness comes over him when talking about Vick's personal choices, the mistakes of the past that led to the infamous mug shot and ensuing scandals. But when he talks about Vick now, the still-young quarterback who three times last year was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week, Beamer can't help but smile.
"How many young people do you know that lost it all, got back on their feet and back to where he is?" Beamer told PFW. "I never doubted it was going to happen. He was a good person who made some bad decisions."
Uncertainty clouds Vick's future. With a lockout perhaps imminent, he looks toward a 2011 season not knowing if he or anyone else in the league will play a game. The specter of this being potentially his last year in Philadelphia, the team that gave him a new lease on life, also looms over Vick.
"I understand that 2011 is the most important year of my life," Vick said. "I just want to play football. If I don't get an extension, I don't. I just want this organization to know that I will do everything I can to help this organization win games in 2011."
And that for a city that has never won the Super Bowl might just be enough for a player who has an awful lot of fight left in him.
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer