Vick plays for first time in 33 months
PHILADELPHIA -- Michael Vick's return to the NFL was ordinary at best. The moments before it happened though, lifted his heart and made his day.
For the record, Vick carried once for 7 yards, threw two incompletions and either handed off or was a decoy on eight other plays as the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 34-14 Sunday in the quarterback's first regular-season action since December 2006.
Just returning to the game he loved after serving 18-months in federal prison on a dogfighting conviction moved him.
Standing on the sidelines as the national anthem played, Vick let his mind go over his downfall over the past 33 months.
"I am thinking about everything I have been through," Vick said after the game. "I am thinking about what it took to get back to this point. I am thinking about my grandmother, who I lost in prison and what she would think."
The last time Vick saw his grandmother, Caletha, was on the day he surrendered to authorities and was taken to federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan. She died during his 18-month incarceration.
"I know she would have been proud of me," Vick said, noting her memory pushes him every day to return to being a great player."
McCoy ran for 84 yards and a touchdown. Kolb ran for one and threw for 327 yards and two other scores, including one to Jackson, who had a career-best 149 receiving yards.
Vick could only cheer them on. His 11 plays, which included seven handoffs, resulted in a net of 30 yards.
"I think I played fairly well," Vick said. "I made good decisions with the plays I had. I missed one ball across the middle. I think I could have hit that. I have to make sure I keep my arm warm on the sideline so when I go in there I am not cold. My focus was to be smart and not turn the ball over."
Vick did just that in a game coach Andy Reid said helped Vick knock some of the rust off. The Eagles have a bye next weekend and then play here in two weeks against the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"Just to go out there and get the jitters out of the way and get knocked around a few times [was good]," Vick said. "It will be totally different feel when we come back against Tampa because I don't feel all eyes will be on me, which is normal."
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Vick took the field on the second play from scrimmage. He lined up at wide receiver, went in motion and had a handoff faked to him, then watched as McCoy lost a yard on a carry.
Some in the crowd rose to give Vick a standing ovation, but he was back on the sideline so quickly -- after one play -- that many fans at Lincoln Financial Field didn't seem to notice him.
Before the game, a group of about 25 protesters gathered at the northeast entrance to the stadium, holding signs saying, "Vick is sick" and "Ethics over athletics." As fans walked by, some began chanting Vick's name and a few shouted insults at the protesters or yelled at them to go home. Philadelphia police stayed close to keep an eye on things.
The only play of note for Vick in the opening half was his second from scrimmage. Taking a shotgun snap, Vick ran an option keeper to the right and gained 7 yards, drawing a cheer from the crowd.
He took a big hit from safety Mike Brown on the play and an even bigger hit on the next series when a rush forced him to throw his first pass out of the end zone on a first-and-goal play.
"I took plenty of hits before," said Vick, whose scrambling style helped him earn three Pro Bowl selections in six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. "I still feel I can take a hit. I got rocked a couple of times and I was able to get up from it and keep moving. That's what is going to happen with the style of offense we run with me in the game."
Vick had no complaints about his limited opportunities.
"It's definitely a different scenario," Vick said. "It's hard. I've never been in this situation before so I think it tell me is stay warm, stay loose and stay even keel."
Eagles receiver Jason Avant said there was a lot of chatter from the Chiefs when Vick came on the field, mostly along the lines of "Seven is in the game."
"He's quick and he made good decisions with the ball," Chiefs defensive end Glenn Dorsey said. "You always have to look out for him when he's in the game, but I think for the most part we had him contained today. He showed flashes of his old self so you always have to be prepared for him."
Vick played seven plays in the first half and just four in the second. He spent the rest of the time standing on the sideline wearing a visor in return or talking with fellow quarterback Jeff Garcia.
"It's all about staying in tune with the game and commenting on coverages and what we are doing offensively," Garcia said. "We're trying to stay involved and keep on top of the mental side of things."
As the game ended, Vick, who was signed to a $1.6 million contract with an Eagles' option for the second year at $5.2 million, looked into the crowd and waved to someone and then hugged an Eagles assistant. He was the last player on the field, staying to do a television interview.
After the game, he also let everyone know what he would have said to his grandmother if she was alive.
"I made it back, Grandma," he said with feeling. "I made it back, and this time I won't let you or the family down."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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