Michael Vick has been dazzling in his return as a starting NFL quarterback but commissioner Roger Goodell told the New York Daily News on Thursday that he's most proud of how Vick has turned his life around off the field.
"There is a big message in what Michael is doing," Goodell told the newspaper. "He's a superstar athlete who everyone thought had everything in the world. He fell from grace tragically by making some horrific mistakes, paid a significant price, worked his way back in and now he's being successful. It demonstrates to me to get to these young men earlier and work with them and make them understand their responsibility making decisions that will define them for a period of time."
Goodell suspended Vick indefinitely in August 2007 after the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback admitted bankrolling a dogfighting operation on his property in Virginia. Vick was fully reinstated after the first two games of the 2009 season.
Goodell told the newspaper that he communicates frequently with Vick either through phone calls or texts.
"I've called him about certain things. I let him know that I care and want him to succeed," Goodell told the Daily News. "He's probably so much more satisfied and comfortable with his life right now. He's getting married next spring. He's got children. He's doing all the right things."
Once one of the NFL's biggest and highest-paid stars, Vick's 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 the 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.
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.
Goodell told the newspaper, however, that he was most concerned with Vick outside of football and so far he has been impressed.
"He's done terrific off the field. I'm proud of how he has responded," he told the Daily News. "There are so many examples in our society of failure, people falling short. We need more success stories. I'm hoping Michael Vick will be a success story. People need to see that. People need to be inspired by that -- a person made a tragic error and he's overcome it."
Since signing with the Eagles in August 2009, he has 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.
"I hear frequently about the different speaking engagements he's going to and the impact that he has when he goes," Goodell told the Daily News. "He's obviously taken responsibility for his actions, been accountable and focuses now on what he can do to make others aware of the fact that you have to conduct yourself properly and make good decisions. I thought the decisions he made with dogfighting were horrific. He's turning himself in the right direction. For that, I'm very proud of him."
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 recently. "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."
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.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.