Michael Vick, seen here in 2009 at his introductory press conference after Andy Reid and the Eagles signed him following his release from prison. (AP)
Michael Vick is asked where he might be today if Andy Reid hadn’t given him a chance to play football in the summer of 2009.
He just shakes his head.
“I don’t know, I don’t even think about it,” Vick said. “I’m just thankful he did give me a chance, and it worked out the way it did.”
Reid, who just over four years ago made the stunning decision to sign Vick just weeks after Vick was released from incarceration, returns to Philly on Thursday as coach of the Chiefs.
Reid’s tenure as head coach of the Eagles -- and for the last 12 years executive vice president -- was marked by a lot of controversial and out-of-the-box moves, but nothing he did was more scrutinized and questioned than his decision to sign Vick on Aug. 13, 2009, just three weeks after he was released from federal custody.
Vick had spent the previous 20 months incarcerated on federal dogfighting charges, 19 months at Leavenworth and one month under house arrest.
There was speculation that no NFL team would risk signing Vick, who was mired deep in bankruptcy, who was a convicted felon, who was 2½ years removed from his last NFL start and who was reviled by countless fans.
None of that stopped Reid, who set out to rehabilitate Vick both on the field and off.
“Coach Reid gave me an opportunity to come back and play football and gave me an opportunity to come back and learn, more than anything,” Vick said Monday.
“The things that I’ve learned in football and the things I’ve learned outside of football from coach Reid were just as valuable, and I appreciated every moment I spent with him.”
Vick spent 2009 as the Eagles’ third-stringer behind Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb, and played very little, although he did throw a franchise playoff record 76-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin in a loss to the Cowboys.
After McNabb was traded to the Redskins, Vick began 2010 as Kolb’s backup, then took over after Kolb got hurt in the opener. Vick went 8-3 in 11 starts, earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors, went to the Pro Bowl and led the Eagles to the playoffs for the ninth and final time under Reid.
Vick went 18-16 in 34 starts under Reid, who was fired in December after 14 years with the Eagles.
“Coach believed in me when nobody else did coming back in 2009, and he believed in me enough to be the leader of his football team in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and that says a lot,” Vick said.
“That says he trusts me, and I’ve certainly developed a lot of trust and unconditional love for him in the process. We just turned out to be great friends, and that’s what you want.”
So far, Vick and Reid are both thriving in their first year apart.
The Chiefs are 2-0 in Reid’s first season in Kansas City, already matching their win total of last year. They’ve allowed just 18 points in two games, second-fewest in the NFL.
And Vick’s 118.4 passer rating is third-best in the NFL, behind only Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. He’s been brilliant operating Chip Kelly’s no-huddle offense, which is averaging 477 yards per game so far -- 13th-most in NFL history after two weeks.
The Eagles and Chiefs meet at 8:30 p.m. Thursday night at the Linc and on national TV.
“I just wish Coach good luck,” Vick said. “We text each other all the time. It’s going to be fun, man. It’s going to be fun to have Coach return home back to his former home. I’m sure he’ll be well received.
“We haven’t forgotten him, but he’s on the other side now, and we understand that, and that’s what’s going to make it fun.”