PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Michael Vick had just scored after another dazzling run against the Redskins when Eagles fans at a local sports bar began chanting: “M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!”
It was a far cry from what Vick was being called a few years ago.
Once one of the NFL’s biggest and highest paid stars, his career was in ruins and his life in shambles. He was broke, reviled and relegated to being a situational No. 3 quarterback after serving 18 months in federal prison for running a dogfighting ring.
Now he’s on top again, playing maybe better than ever, and just in time to become perhaps the biggest free agent on the market next year.
LISTEN: Boomer & Carton – Enough with Vick hoopla
Vick may have had the best all-around game by a quarterback in NFL history Monday night against Washington. He threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for 80 yards and two scores in Philadelphia’s 59-28 victory.
So much for everyone who protested his arrival in Philadelphia and threatened to boycott games.
“I thought what he did was disgusting, but the guy paid his dues and deserves a second chance,” said Shaun Young, an 18-year season ticket holder who was inducted into the Pro Football Ultimate Fan Association’s Hall of Fame last year in Canton, Ohio.
“He’s playing incredible. I respect people’s opinions that don’t like him, but isn’t this world based on second chances?”
Since signing with the Eagles in August 2009, he’s been a model citizen off the field, working with the Humane Society of the United States and speaking to school and community groups about the cruelty of dogfighting.
On the field, Vick has been downright spectacular, even more so than when he was a superstar with the Atlanta Falcons.
“I feel like I’m playing the best football only because of the coaches that I have, the guys I’m playing with. The offensive line is playing great,” Vick said. “I have a great group of guys around me. Just as I’m doing a great job, those guys are doing a great job as well.”
Fickle fans who were outraged when the Eagles signed him to a two-year deal are now demanding the team give him a new contract. Vick, who filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July 2008, could be a top free agent on the market next year if Philadelphia lets him get that far. Teams who weren’t willing to trade a high draft pick for him when the Eagles made him available last offseason just may be lining up to throw money at him.
“The other 31 teams out there need to save their money and vote for Michael Vick or try to get a bid for him because the way he was looking out there, he was looking awesome,” Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said.
Some would argue that if Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb can get a $78 million, five-year deal from the Redskins, the 30-year-old Vick certainly should be worth more right now. He’s younger and arguably playing better than McNabb did when he led the Eagles to the Super Bowl in 2004. McNabb was traded by the Eagles to Washington in April and the rest, well, is history.
“I could have never envisioned this,” Vick said. “Signing here, I didn’t even think I’d be starting as the quarterback this year. So, all of this is paramount for me, but at the same time it’s somewhat surprising.”
Hard to believe that Vick’s No. 7 jersey, which was being sold at clearance prices last December, is a hot item nowadays.
“He’s my favorite player,” said Ashley Walton, one of many fans wearing a Vick jersey at a sports bar in South Philadelphia. “I know what he did was wrong and it’s something some people will never forgive him for, but he went to jail and he did his time. People can’t judge him for one mistake forever. Everyone makes mistakes.”
Indeed, Vick has made the Eagles (6-3) an instant contender in a season in what was to be a rebuilding season. They’re 4-0 in games that he’s started and finished, and are tied with the New York Giants for first place in the NFC East.
Vick and the Eagles face the Giants Sunday night.
Check out his numbers, despite missing three games with a rib injury: He has passed for 1,350 yards and 11 TDs and rushed for 341 yards and four TDs. He hasn’t thrown an interception or lost a fumble and his passer rating of 115.1 leads the NFL.
Vick’s sensational game against the Skins made his college coach, Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, think about the 2000 Sugar Bowl. Back then, Vick put on quite a show against Florida State even though the Hokies lost 46-29.
“I remember the day after the national championship game, everybody was talking about the performance Michael Vick had last night … ,” Beamer said Tuesday. “Today seems like that same day. Everybody in the country seems to be talking about what a performance he had last night, and he did.”
In general, he said, Vick doesn’t take anything for granted.
“The time away, I think he realized a lot of things and in talking with him, he’s very humble and just glad to be back in the NFL. And then I think he’s worked hard to get his body in condition. I think he’s worked hard to get mentally right out there and know where the ball needs to go and be good in that regard. I always thought he was good. I always thought he had unbelievable talent, different talent. I think he’s determined to get it back right.
“I’m pulling for him all the way. I’m pulling for him hard.”
AP Sports Writers Joseph White and Hank Kurz Jr. contributed to this report.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.
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