PHILADELPHIA – It looked and felt like Michael Vick’s last day as a Philadelphia Eagle.
As the former franchise quarterback cleaned out his locker, teammates came over and shook his hand. A few asked him to autograph jerseys or other items. A couple even posed with him for photographs.
When he talked to the media, Vick sounded like a man who was moving on after five years with the Eagles.
“It’s hard to sum up my time here,” Vick said. “Everything has been so surreal and has happened so abruptly. The thing I do know is I really appreciate the fans, I really appreciate the organization, I appreciate the relationships and the teammates that I’ve been able to endure in this locker room.
“There’s a lot of guys in here I’ll always remember forever, I’ll always keep in contact with and are my brothers.”
Vick signed with the Eagles in 2009 after being released from federal prison and reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Head coach Andy Reid wanted to give Vick a second chance without the pressure to be a starter. Vick was the third-team quarterback in ’09 and started 2010 as the No. 2 quarterback.
He replaced Kevin Kolb early in the 2010 season and eventually was signed to a new contract. After the Eagles hired Chip Kelly last January, Vick agreed to a one-year contract for 2013. He won the starting job coming out of training camp, but was replaced by Nick Foles in October after pulling his hamstring.
“I love Michael Vick,” Kelly said. “That guy is awesome … how he handled a very difficult situation. Unfortunately, he got hurt and that gave an opportunity to another guy. I think sometimes that’s hard to wrap your arms around because it’s not like Michael got benched. It was just a unique situation.”
Vick said he still wants to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
“I want to keep it going,” Vick said. “I’m not finished. My desire to start, I think, will be the same when I’m 38, 39 years old. But I’m still 33. I still feel good. The way that I’ve been able to take care of my body, the nutrition aspect and everything, has really given me another jumpstart. I feel good. I still know I can play. I’m confident in what I can do based on what I do every day.”
Vick’s experience with Reid and with Kelly, plus his years with various offensive coaches in Atlanta, give him a breadth of experience. Will another team commit to him as a starter? That won’t be known until March 11, when free agency begins.
If he can’t find a starting job, would he consider returning to the Eagles as a backup?
“We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there,” Vick said. “I’m not even seeing that far. I’m praying that things work out in my favor, but you never know.”
With fourth-round pick Matt Barkley on board, the Eagles may not want to bring Vick back. Kelly had high praise for Barkley’s development and potential.
That explains the valedictory tone of Vick’s comments to the media.
“I have no favorite memories,” Vick said. “The memories I have are of coming here every day. The brotherhood that we have, each and every guy in this locker room. The memories I have over the years of throwing to DeSean (Jackson), handing off to Shady (LeSean McCoy), playing with Jason Peters. So many great guys in here I think are future Hall of Famers. It’s something I’ll never forget.”