PHILADELPHIA -- A remorseful Michael Vick wants a second chance, but he knows he won't be easily forgiven by fans.
"I think everybody deserves a second chance," Vick said Friday, one day after signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. "We all have issues, we all deal with certain things and we all have our own set of inequities. I think as long as you are willing to come back and do it the right way and do the right things and that you're committed, then I think you deserve it. But you only get one shot at a second chance, and I am conscious of that."
A three-time Pro Bowl quarterback during his six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, Vick served 18 months in federal prison for running a dogfighting ring and was reinstated by the NFL just last month after being out of action since 2006.
Vick said he wanted to play for a team with strong ownership, a solid coaching staff and an established starting quarterback, so he picked the Eagles. Vick signed a one-year deal for $1.6 million, with a team option for a second year at $5.2 million. None of the money is guaranteed, so the Eagles face no financial risk if Vick doesn't make the team.
Dressed in a gray, pinstriped suit, Vick called his offenses "a horrible mistake" and vowed to crusade for animal rights.
"I want to be part of the solution and not the problem," Vick said during a half-hour news conference. "I am making conscious efforts within the community, working with the Humane Society. Hopefully I can do that locally and continue with my disciplined efforts in bringing awareness to animal cruelty and dogfighting in the inner cities and our communities."
Reid insisted that he did his homework on Vick before the Eagles signed him. And giving second chances is something Reid knows all about: He endured a family crisis in 2007, when his sons were arrested on drug charges.
"Michael has aggressively attacked the issue that he was presented with and done it in a manner that is not only proactive but sincere," Reid said.
"I know some people will not agree (with the decision to sign Vick)," the coach added, "but on the other hand, I think the majority will. Fortunately, in this country, if we handle ourselves properly, we are given an opportunity for second chances. I think people understand."
Reid clearly had to convince Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie that Vick deserved an opportunity with an organization that has previously shown little patience for players who cause trouble. Wide receiver Terrell Owens helped the Eagles reach the Super Bowl in the 2004 season, but he was kicked off the team midway through the 2005 campaign after criticizing management and feuding with quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Lurie called Vick's actions "horrific" and "despicable." He said he did serious "soul-searching" and spent several hours talking to Vick before agreeing to the deal.
"I wanted to know everything," Lurie said. "I wanted to know about the cruelty, the torture, the humiliation, and I most of all wanted to understand why Michael was being reinstated into the National Football League, a league that he disgraced. After multiple conversations, I felt more open to giving a human being a second chance, who possibly could become a socially active NFL player who actually could do great things off the field."
McNabb, for his part, said he lobbied for Vick, even though he's also a quarterback. The two have been friends for years. McNabb has led the Eagles to the NFC Championship Game five times and one Super Bowl appearance in the last eight years.
Vick said he is content playing any role on offense.
"Whatever Coach Reid decides on, that's what I will do," Vick said. "I'm just here to contribute and help win a Super Bowl."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell conditionally lifted Vick's suspension on July 27, allowing him to sign with a team, practice and play in the last two preseason games, beginning with the Eagles' home contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Aug. 27. However, Vick will not be allowed to participate in regular-season games until Goodell gives the OK. The commissioner said he would consider Vick for full reinstatement by Week 6 of the season, which is Oct. 18-19.
"I have said several times in recent weeks that I want Michael to be one of the NFL's success stories as an individual and as a football player," Goodell said. "I know the Eagles will provide strong support, but, ultimately, Michael's success is up to him and the decisions he makes."
In coming to Philadelphia, Vick picked a city with a reputation for boorish fan behavior and pitiless sports-talk radio.
"He doesn't stand a chance here," said Alfred Snolten, a longtime Eagles fan. "He would've been better off somewhere else."
Angry fans brought dogs and waited outside the team's practice facility during Vick's press conference, carrying signs and banners to display their outrage.
"How could they sign Michael Vick?" said Mark Pascetta of Ridley Township. "They are supposed to be a character team. We don't need him."
Vick said he knows he might never be forgiven by some people.
"But our country is a country of second chances," he said. "I paid my debt to society. I spent two years in prison. ... That was a humbling experience. I can't explain how deeply hurt and how sorry I was."
Some fans already have shown their support for Vick, hoping he can help the Eagles finally win their first Super Bowl championship. One guy used electrical tape to put Vick's name and No. 7 on a T-shirt and stood out among the protesters.
"He did his time," said Oscar Alvarado of Camden, N.J.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press