Recalling Michael Vick's brilliance on his 40th birthday

Recalling Michael Vick's brilliance on his 40th birthday

On May 20, 2009, Michael Vick was released from Leavenworth Federal Prison in Kansas after 18 months in incarceration.

On Aug. 15, 2009, less than three months later, he was on a practice field behind the NovaCare Complex effortlessly firing jet-fueled passes with his rocket left arm down the field to DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Reggie Brown.

Vick hadn’t played football since 2006, but he was only 29 years old, he was in his prime and he was already a three-time Pro Bowler and one of the most dynamic quarterbacks the NFL had ever seen.

Now he was an Eagle, and standing there watching him practice that morning it was impossible not to imagine the possibilities.

Vick turns 40 today, and when you look back at his Eagles career, just like when you look at his life, you have to weigh the man’s flaws and his strengths.

Vick the person. There’s no question he rehabilitated himself while he was in prison. Everyone who’s followed his life since the day he was released knows this. Some people will never forgive him for his crimes, and that’s their choice.

I’ll never forget talking to Vick the day before Thanksgiving 2009 when he told me, “If I had to do it all over again, I’d go back to prison because I came out a much better person than when I went in.”

And that’s how he’s lived his life.

But I wanted to take a minute and focus on what Vick gave us on the football field.

Vick barely played in 2009. Donovan McNabb was still here. He did come in for one snap in that terrible playoff loss to the Cowboys and fired an effortless 76-yard TD pass to Jeremy Maclin.

In 2010, McNabb was gone, Kevin Kolb was hurt and struggling, and Vick was magical.

In the 10 games he started and finished, the Eagles went 8-2 and Vick threw 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. He ran for almost 700 yards and nine more TDs. He put on a show every Sunday for a fan base desperate for a new star after McNabb’s late-career doldrums.

Week after week, Vick sacrificed his body, playing like he was trying to prove he was still the superstar he had been before prison. Maclin, Jackson and McCoy all had big years playing alongside their boyhood hero, and there were times the offense looked unstoppable.

Vick threw an NFL-best seven TDs of at least 45 yards just that one year, four to Jackson, two to Maclin, one to Brent Celek. 

And on an unforgettable Monday night in Landover, Md., it all came together in a 59-28 embarrassment of McNabb and the Redskins.

First play of the game was that 88-yard thing of beauty to Jackson. 

I’ve watched the play 1,000 times. At least. The ball travels 72 yards in the air. Jackson stumbles a bit as he catches it in front of LaRon Landry but keeps his balance and jogs into the end zone backwards. 

But I’ll never forget watching it live.

The press box at FedEx Field is directly behind the west end zone, so I sat there watching that pass soar majestically through the air, flying right at me before settling into Jackson’s outstretched hands. I get chills just thinking about it now.

That’s what Vick gave all of us in 2010. 

For three months, Vick put on a show and breathed life into a franchise that was trying to figure out what it was following a decade of McNabb.

He played the game with such a flair and had the personality to match. He loved being an Eagle. He loved just playing football again. He was accessible and approachable and wore his heart on his sleeve, never hesitating to let us know exactly what he was feeling — something McNabb never did.

That season ended ugly, with that home playoff loss to a Packers team the Eagles never should have lost to and an unthinkable interception on a pass Vick never should have thrown.

Vick spent three more years here and had some fantastic moments, but it was never quite the same as 2010. He finished his career with cameos in 2014 with the Jets and 2015 with the Steelers.

I talked to Vick as often as I could during his five years in Philly because he was funny and personable, but also because I learned so much from him. 

About our ability to genuinely become better people if we really want to and about how wrong preconceived notions can be.

Vick was a flawed character on the field and off, and that makes it more difficult to kind of summarize what he was all about.

But I do know that a decade ago, he made Sunday afternoons —  and Monday nights — a whole lot of fun for Eagles fans.

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A lost opportunity for Sidney Jones in Roob's 10 Observations

A lost opportunity for Sidney Jones in Roob's 10 Observations

A lost opportunity for Sidney Jones, an unbelievable Sam Bradford stat and the continuing saga of Reb Russell.

It's all right here in this weekend's Roob's 10 Eagles Observations! 

1. I keep trying to convince myself, "This will be the year we see the real Sidney Jones." And coming out of last year, I really believed Jones, going into Year 4, had a chance to really get his legs healthy this spring and then show everybody in minicamps, OTAs, training camp and the preseason games that he could hold down the CB2 opposite Darius Slay. But if the curtailed offseason and preseason hurts anybody the most, it's Jones. The Eagles have made it clear Avonte Maddox is the projected starter, and as long Maddox stays healthy I don't see how Sidney can win the job. Without any spring workouts or preseason games? Can Jones do enough just in a few weeks of training camp practice to beat out Maddox? I don't think so.

2. Who has the highest 4th-quarter passer rating among Eagles quarterbacks? Going back to 1994, as far back as the Pro Football Reference database logs quarter-by-quarter stats, here's the surprising answer (minimum of 100 4th-quarter attempts):

95.9 ... Sam Bradford

88.4 ... Michael Vick

84.5 ... Carson Wentz

83.6 ... Donovan McNabb

81.9 ... Nick Foles

76.9 ... Rodney Peele

76.7 ... Mark Sanchez

70.3 ... Ty Detmer

64.1 ... Bobby Hoying

62.7 ... Randall Cunningham

59.0 ... Koy Detmer 

(Remember, this only includes Randall's last two years with the Eagles) 

3. As good as T.O. was in 2004, he was on his way to an even bigger season in 2005 before he imploded and got himself suspended. Owens was 47-for-763 with 6 TDs after seven games, which put him on pace for 107 catches and 1,744 yards with 13 TDs. The only players in NFL history to reach those plateaus in a season are Jerry Rice and Isaac Bruce. T.O.'s 93.5 yards per game as an Eagle is 23 yards per game more than any other WR in franchise history. DeSean Jackson (69.7), Mike Quick (64.0), Irving Fryar (63.9) and Jeremy Maclin (63.6) are next.

4. If the NFL does wind up reducing rosters from 90 to 75 because of the curtailed or eliminated preseason and for social distancing purposes, the league needs to give each team the opportunity to retain the rights of some or all of the players they're forced to release. Maybe pay them a weekly reduced salary and let them participate in virtual meetings and remain part of the team without actually being at practice. It would be a shame to see the Eagles forced to cut ties with promising kids like Adrian Killians Jr., Grayland Arnold, Raequan Williams, Mike Warren, Sua Opeta or Deontay Burnett because of the current circumstances. The league and the NFLPA need to find a way to make sure that doesn't happen.

5. I just remembered the Eagles paid Nelson Agholor $9.387 million last year.

6. The Frankford Yellow Jackets won the 1926 NFL Championship, but by the early 1930s, they may have been the worst professional sports team in Philadelphia history. They won only 3 of their last 24 games and scored 7 or fewer points in 20 of those 24 games. 

7. What are the odds that the Eagles' two recent Hall of Famers — Brian Dawkins and Harold Carmichael — went to the same high school? Both graduated from Raines High in Jacksonville. Raines has produced numerous other NFL players, including Lito Sheppard, Shawn Jefferson and Ken Burrough, along with baseball's Vince Coleman. Surprisingly, 16 high schools produced multiple Hall of Famers, including one — George Washington in L.A. — that produced three (James Lofton, Hugh McElhenny, Bill Walsh). 

8. Carson Wentz's 32 wins are 15th-most in NFL history by a quarterback in his first four seasons. He's also one of only five of the top 20 that didn't win a playoff game during those four years. The others are Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Steve Grogan, Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer. Ryan won one in his 5th season, Manning in his 6th and Palmer in his 14th. Dalton and Grogan never did win one. One of these years, Wentz will win one. Right?

9. Donovan McNabb had already won four playoff games and reached two NFC Championship Games by the end of his fourth season.

10. Everyone seemed to enjoy last week's excerpt from newspaper coverage of the Eagles' first game in franchise history in 1933, so here's an excerpt from the Inquirer story reporting the first win in franchise history, 6-0 over the Reds later in 1933: 

"Tall, slab-sided, loose-limbed Swede Hanson, the new Galloping Ghost of the commercial gridiron, raced over the last white stripe today, as the Philadelphia Eagles achieved their first conquest of the season, 6-0. Hanson, lean and lank and lantern jawed, was the hero of this game, as he has starred in all of the frays in which the Eagles have been a part. For two periods, the Birds and their Red foes battered away at the line or sought the air but all in vain. In the third quarter, however, the Wraymen turned into a devastating horde." 

The story goes on to describe Hanson's touchdown, the game's only score: 

"It was fourth down now and the goal line beckoning in tantalizing fashion straight ahead. Then Hanson and (Reb) Russell outwtitted their foes. Reb came tearing in as if to shoot off tackle. The Reds tumbled through upon the former Purple hero, however, who was ready for this emergency. As the gang tried to pile up, Russell flipped a lateral, straight and unerring, right into Hanson's arms. Like a flash, the Swede lighted out for the end, slipped past two tackles and went over the line."

Wraymen? Really? Remember, that team's coach was Lud Wray. Guess I should start calling the Eagles the Dougmen?

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Report: NFLPA board unanimously recommends to cancel entire preseason 

Report: NFLPA board unanimously recommends to cancel entire preseason 

Just two days after we learned the NFL’s plan to cut the 2020 preseason in half, the NFL Players Association is reportedly recommending that the league cancel the entire preseason. 

The NFLPA’s board of representatives voted unanimously on the recommendation, according to ESPN. 

On Wednesday, ProFootballTalk reported that the NFL was cutting the preseason in half because of the coronavirus pandemic, keeping Weeks 2 and 3 but eliminating Weeks 1 and 4. Other reports indicated that those preseason games would be pushed back later into August. 

If the Eagles end up playing the original Weeks 2 and 3 of their preseason schedule, they will face the Dolphins on the road and the Patriots at home. They were originally scheduled to be at Indianapolis in Week 1 and at home against the Jets in Week 4, but those games have already been canceled. 

The NFL is still planning for training camps to begin on July 28 with rookies and select vets allowed to report earlier. 

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said earlier this offseason that his team will need the entire five-to-six-week training camp to get ready for the 2020 season, especially after missing the entire spring workout schedule because of the pandemic. 

The Eagles are scheduled to begin their 2020 regular season in Washington on Sept. 13. 

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