Vick Didn't Want to Come to Philly, and I Don't Blame Him

Vick Didn't Want to Come to Philly, and I Don't Blame Him

There may not be a professional athlete alive today that can invoke a full spectrum of emotions the way Michael Vick can. Many fans want to cheer, others want to boo, while professional football players all want to be in the same locker room as Vick, and reporters all want their exclusive interview.

Will Leitch was the latest to catch up with the most polarizing figure in the NFL for the upcoming edition of GQ, and of course there is no shortage of delving into the Pro Bowl quarterback's criminal past. Vick also talked about his decision to sign with the Eagles though, admitting he didn't necessarily want to wear midnight green--as if it were some sort of bombshell.

"I think I can say this now, because it's not going to hurt anybody's feelings, and it's the truth... I didn't want to come to Philadelphia. Being the third-team quarterback is nothing to smile about. Cincinnati and Buffalo were better options."

It's a line that's already garnered quite a bit of attention, but why would this have been his first choice? At the time, Donovan McNabb was still firmly entrenched as the franchise quarterback, and if something happened to Five, the coaches were also high on Kevin Kolb. When the Eagles signed Vick, there didn't appear to be even a remote path that would lead him to become the starting quarterback here.

Furthermore, it shouldn't really come as any surprise Vick wasn't overly thrilled with the situation, considering he had an escape plan built in to his first contract. The two-year deal was structured in such a way that the Eagles either needed to trade or release Vick after one season, otherwise they owed him a hefty bonus that would drive up the cost much higher than normal for a reserve quarterback.

It just so happened by that time, no serious suitors remained. There simply wasn't much of a market for Vick in 2010, and after shipping McNabb to Washington, Andy Reid suddenly had a need for a veteran backup behind the unproven Kolb. The rest is history.

Even before that though, Vick made it perfectly clear he wouldn't be satisfied spending another season primarily on the bench, occasionally subbing in to run a handful of Wildcat plays. Asked during last year's off-season if he could reprise that role, Vick responded:

"It would be a tough decision to make. I would really have to take a lot of things into consideration. The fact that I want to be a starter."

"[If] another opportunity presented itself, it would be even better."

Meanwhile, Leitch's article goes on to suggest Vick may have been steered toward Philadelphia, which both the quarterback and the league have quickly come out and denied. If Cincinnati or Buffalo did in fact have offers on the table for Vick, based on his not-so-hidden agenda, it's not difficult to understand why he might have preferred those scenarios.

With that in mind, it's also difficult not to get the feeling Vick's choice was influenced by somebody close to him. Everything he has said and done seemed largely motivated by his goal of regaining his status as a superstar QB in the NFL. While the best possible destination for him was almost undoubtedly in Philly, where the only immediate pressure was on improving, the fastest possible route would have been someplace where there was less stability.

What's truly important today is not how Vick felt about signing here at the time, but that he recognizes how critical the correct decision was for rehabilitating his career. He could've gone and played right away somewhere else, but not likely ever enjoy the success--team or individual--he is poised to have with the Eagles in 2011. Thankfully, Vick really seems to understand that now.

"The problem was that I wasn't given the liberty to do certain things when I was young. The reason I became a better player was because I came to Philly."

>> The Impossible, Inevitable Redemption of Michael Vick [GQ]
>> NFL says Vick wasn't steered to Philadelphia [PFT]
>> Vick Statement On GQ Article [PE.com]

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

The Phillies made a couple quiet additions as the winter meetings ended, signing veteran outfielder Daniel Nava and lefty reliever Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts.

Nava, 34 in February, is a left-handed hitter who can play the outfield corners and first base. He came up with the Red Sox and became a fan favorite in Boston in 2010 as a 27-year-old rookie. Some Phillies fans will remember him for hitting a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first major-league plate appearance.

Nava had a few decent years in Boston, the best of which was 2013, when he had 536 plate appearances and hit .303/.385/.445 with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 66 RBIs. 

Nava's numbers and opportunities have dropped every year since. He was designated for assignment by Boston in 2015, latched on with the Rays, signed the next year with the Angels and was traded late in the season to the Royals.

Over the last two seasons, Nava has hit just .208, albeit with an on-base percentage 99 points higher because of his 30 walks and 10 hit by pitches.

Burnett, 34, has spent five of the last seven seasons in the Nationals' bullpen. He had a 2.85 ERA in 283 appearances from 2009-12 and parlayed that success into a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the Angels. However, he barely pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Halos because of an elbow tear. He returned to the Nats last season and allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings.

Burnett, perhaps more so than Nava, has a chance to fill a role with the Phillies if he can stay healthy. He's shown he can get outs at the highest level, posting a 2.38 ERA in 2012 with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.14 ERA with 8.9 K/9 in 2010. That was a long time ago now, and Burnett's fastball has dipped from averaging 90-91 mph to 88.

According to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, Burnett will receive a $1.25 million salary if he makes the team and can earn another $1.75 million in incentives based on his number of appearances.

Burnett has an opt-out date of March 26, meaning he can become a free agent a week before the regular season begins if it looks to him like he isn't in the Phils' plans.

Nava's chances at cracking the opening-day roster seem longer because the Phillies are expected to make more depth signings between now and the start of camp. They've prioritized finding some offense in the corner outfield and that could come in the form of more minor-league deals, a guaranteed contract or trade. One potential fit I examined last week was Mariners outfielder Seth Smith, a hitter more proven than Nava (see story).

These minor-league deals were commonplace for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak last offseason, when the only free agent he signed to a major-league deal was reliever David Hernandez. 

Last season, three players who were signed to minor-league deals with invites to spring training made the team on opening day: outfielder Cedric Hunter, utilityman Emmanuel Burriss and reliever James Russell.

Others, such as former closers Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri and Andrew Bailey, failed to make the team out of camp. Bailey eventually earned a call-up; the other two didn't.

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixers point guard and Meek Mill collaborator Lou Williams is enjoying quite the run off the bench for the Lakers recently.

Over Los Angeles' last four games, Williams has posted totals of 40, 38, 24, and 35 points. 

The six-man is averaging 34.5 points per game over the stretch, and his 137 points are the most off the bench in a four-game span by any player since 1970-71, when stats were first recorded, per Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN. Williams is now averaging 19.3 points this season, which is 4.4 more than his highest average with the Sixers.

Williams isn’t the only player who used to play for the Sixers that is playing well for the Lakers this year. Nick “Swaggy P” Young, who also comes off the bench, is averaging 13.3 points per game. Just a few weeks ago, Swaggy P stole a pass intended for Lou Williams, and then proceeded to hit a game winner against the Thunder. Swaggy P, however, is currently sidelined with a right calf strain, but is getting closer to a return.

"Lou Will" was also talked about last April during Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game, when he was beefing on Twitter with another former Philadelphia athlete, LeSean McCoy.