FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Michael Vick remembers his first trip to Philadelphia, August, 2009. It was about a month after he was released from prison on federal dogfighting charges. He signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, but he wasn't thrilled with the opportunity. He knew he'd have to sit behind Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb.
"I just remember being angry the whole trip and kind of upset, almost a disgruntled employee before I could even get there," Vick recalled Monday.
He figured he'd be one-and-done in Philly. He ended up falling in love with the place and sticking around for five years.
On Thursday, Vick returns to the place that changed his life. He will start for the New York Jets in the final preseason game, but it's more of a ceremonial start than anything else. His outing will be brief, maybe a series or two, a chance for him to take a bow before an adoring stadium.
Philly is a notoriously tough place to play and perform -- ask Santa Claus -- but the city likes Mike.
On Monday, Vick sat at his locker, waxing nostalgic about his previous home. He complimented the fans, the front office, the coaches and his former teammates. Vick is appreciated, in part, because of the way he handled himself last season. After getting hurt and losing his job to Nick Foles, he didn't make a stink. He supported Foles, keeping the locker room united.
"I never want to play second fiddle to anybody, but I just felt like that team was in such a groove that I didn't want to try to become a distraction even though I could've fought for my position and fought for the job," he said.
The same scenario has unfolded this year. Instead of rattling the cage, Vick has accepted his role as Geno Smith's backup. His attitude has raised questions about whether he's too content, and whether he should've competed harder for the starting job. Of course, if he did that, he would've been criticized for being divisive. It's a no-win situation.
"You always envision yourself being a starter -- you always want to be the guy behind center -- but times change and things change and we changed as individuals, our feelings and our emotions," he said. "I think I've changed over the years. I still have the same attitude, a winning attitude, but now I kind of see things from a different perspective. It's very humbling to be in the position I'm in, because now I get to see things from a different angle. That's just as important as being a starter, if you ask me."
Vick said he doesn't second-guess his decision to sign with the Jets. He also said he'd never admit that, even if it were the case.
"I can honestly and candidly say right now that I'm very thankful and grateful to be here as a Jet, and I'm excited about what we can accomplish this year," he said.
But first, a trip to Philadelphia, where he started for three-plus years and led the Eagles to the playoffs in 2010.
"The chemistry I had with that organization," he said, "was uncanny."