Humbled Vick taking his second chance and running with it

The Michael Vick who takes the field Sunday for the Philadelphia Eagles won't be the same Michael Vick who made three Pro Bowls in six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.

And that, he says, is a good thing.

Vick told NFL Network analyst Jim Mora, who coached him in Atlanta from 2004 to 2006, that before he spent 18 months in federal prison on dogfighting charges, "my whole life was a lie."

"I came to work with a mask on, man," Vick told Mora in an interview that aired on "NFL GameDay Morning" on Sunday. "It was me deep down inside. But it was the other things that I had when I left. You know, I was into everything. You know, going home, you know, everything."

Those other things included a sophisticated dogfighting ring. Vick said he first became involved in dogfighting at a young age, but he escalated his involvement when he joined the NFL.

"My first year in the league, met a guy who I hadn't seen in a long time, always had a lot of dogs, and that one thing led to another and now we got a whole farm," Vick said. "And we got some land. And, you know, off and running."

Unlike many NFL defenders, federal authorities eventually caught up with Vick. In an April 2007 raid on his property, they found more than 60 dogs, some malnourished and injured.

Vick was charged with unlawfully torturing and killing dogs and promoting dogfights. He spent 18 months in federal prison -- time he believes transformed him.

"Life's just changed drastically," Vick said. "And when I sat in prison in Leavenworth and I (was) just thinking, 'How do I want to live my life moving forward? How do I want to change, and what can I do better this time around, you know, if granted a second chance?'"

That second chance came last August, when Vick signed a two-year deal with the Eagles to back up Donovan McNabb. After the Eagles traded McNabb to the NFC East rival Washington Redskins during offseason and young starter Kevin Kolb was injured in the season opener, Vick received the opportunity he had waited for -- and he took advantage.

Through 10 quarters, Vick has passed for 750 yards and six touchdowns, adding 170 yards and one score on the ground. He hasn't thrown an interception, earning himself a 110.2 passer rating that ranks second in the NFL behind Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

Now 31, Vick said he is determined to make the most of his abilities and opportunities, something he admitted he took for granted while with the Falcons, playing for Mora.

"It was so many things I could've done to prepare myself to make it a lot easier on me," Vick said. "And it was weeks where I would study hard. And it was weeks when I would just relax and take it easy and just try to play off sheer talent. And I think that hurt us in a lot of different ways because I look back and see now I could have done a lot of things differently."

Vick said before his sentence, he perceived himself as invincible. He admittedly didn't work as hard as he could have -- believing he could get by on his physical abilities alone. He surrounded himself with the wrong people while blocking out coaches, friends and family members who tried their best to steer him the right way.

"I was selfish in some aspects," Vick said. "And I didn't dedicate myself. I didn't listen. And y'all was only trying to help me in so many ways."

Vick said he has removed those negative influences from his life and rededicated himself to his craft and his family. His day now begins early in the film room, where he said he has committed himself to studying his opponents.

"I'm just studying more film, putting the time and the effort in," Vick said. "Just trying to make sure when I leave this building each and every day, I can leave saying that I know exactly what my opposition is going to do to me or try to do to me. And (I) just don't want to leave no stones unturned, so I try to get here early, try to get my work out of here and get my day going, get myself going. And, you know, another thing that's changed, you know, I don't have a lot of people around me no more."

Ironically, Vick's newfound work ethic was fostered by McNabb, his opponent Sunday.

"Donovan had a lot of influence," Vick said. "He always made sure I was with him when I first got here, the first three weeks, you know. And he's an early bird. He's here (at) 6:55. He's lifting weights and he's watching film. And I just got into that routine. And he was very influential in that process of bringing me here. And I was very grateful for it."

With his priorities straight, Vick is determined to make his second chance in the league as successful as possible. He knows it could be his last.

"Yeah, I understand that playing in the NFL is a privilege and not a right," Vick said. "And everybody don't have a chance to make it. You know, everybody can't play at this high level. And you just got to take it for what it's worth and not take it for granted and put everything that you got into it.

"One day, coach (Greg) Knapp (Vick's offensive coordinator with the Falcons) was like, 'Mike, don't be the last person into the (meeting) room, the offensive (meeting) room. You know, be the first guy, just so the guys can see you, you know, come in, sit down. You first, you set the example.' And (it) went in one ear and out the other."

"Now, I realize how important that is, just as far as perception. And doing the right thing. It's just so many small things that we take for granted, that I took for granted that could have (paid) dividends for us. Never know."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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