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NFL says Michael Vick eligible to play in 3rd game

BARRY WILNER | 9/4/2009, 11:44 a.m.

NEW YORK (AP) -- After missing two seasons and serving an 18-month prison term, sitting out two regular-season games can't be too difficult for Michael Vick.

Vick got the green light for full reinstatement by Roger Goodell on Thursday, when the NFL commissioner said the disgraced quarterback could play later this month instead of waiting until October. Vick, Goodell and Eagles coach Andy Reid met earlier in the day.

"I was surprised, but I'm just blessed to have an opportunity," Vick said after the Eagles lost 38-27 to the Jets in the preseason finale. "It's still somewhat like a dream when I step out there on the field, coming where I came from two years ago and where I've been. I just try to enjoy the moment. I can't complain about anything.
"If it was a six-game suspension, and if that was the ruling and the final verdict, I would've been happy and just would've said I had to work on personal development and perfecting my game."

Vick signed with Philadelphia on Aug. 13 and played in two preseason games. Goodell's decision means he can return in the Sept. 27 home game against Kansas City. It would be Vick's first regular-season game since he was sent to prison for his role in operating a dogfighting ring. The former Atlanta Falcons star was released from federal custody July 20.

Originally, Goodell said he would consider Vick for reinstatement no later than the sixth week of the season - Oct. 18.

"I think he's making real progress," Goodell said. "I think he has a better feel for the challenges ahead of him.

"He understands he has very little margin for error, that people are watching him."

The folks watching him at Giants Stadium didn't see vintage Vick - or anything close. Vick ran for a 2-yard touchdown, but was sacked four times, lost a fumble and was intercepted.

"A lot of things I could've done better," he said, "but it was good to get out there and play some quarterback on a consistent basis and shake off the cobwebs a little bit."

Vick was in and out of the lineup in the opening half, and was booed each time he ran onto the field. He lined up at quarterback and wide receiver at times, and scored his first NFL touchdown since 2006 to give the Eagles a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. Vick lined up at quarterback, faked a handoff and ran up the middle from 2 yards 25 seconds into the quarter.

"I still think I'm a couple of weeks away," he said. "I can use this time to get myself in shape, build my endurance, continue to strengthen my legs and continue to work my mind with the offense. Just try to do all the right things to put myself in position when I'm called on I can go out and perform at my best."

A three-time Pro Bowl pick during six seasons with the Falcons, Vick was a surprise signing by the Eagles. He received a one-year deal for $1.6 million with a team option for a second year at $5.2 million.

Vick started practicing on Aug. 15. He played six snaps in Philadelphia's home game against Jacksonville last week, lining up at quarterback and receiver. He completed all four of his pass attempts, but the Eagles' offense scored just three points in the possessions he played.

"We thought that if Michael did the right things, somewhere - probably one to three weeks - would be the likely outcome. So this is certainly in the range we expected," team president Joe Banner said. "We appreciate the commissioner's thoughtfulness and I think this is a good outcome and we look forward to having him."

Reid provided much information to Goodell on Vick's progress. Along with former Colts coach Tony Dungy, who is acting as Vick's mentor at Goodell's behest, Reid has been closely involved in Vick's return.

Reid's two sons have been jailed on drug charges.

"He completely respects what the commissioner did," Reid said. "Michael is glad to be back in football and playing. He's taking things in stride right now."

The Eagles plan to use Vick in their version of the wildcat offense, and Reid has stated that Kevin Kolb remains the backup to Donovan McNabb.

Vick says he's content doing whatever he can to help the team win and wants to learn from McNabb how to become a better quarterback.

While McNabb is an excellent scrambler, he prefers being a pocket passer. Vick always has been far more inclined to take off and run than stay in the pocket and find an open receiver. His career completion percentage is only 53.8 percent, and he has more career 100-yard rushing games (8) than 250-yard passing games. Vick has 71 career touchdown passes, but 52 interceptions.

Animal-rights activists in Philadelphia have opted not to protest the player, but to use Vick's signing to spotlight their work and have asked the Eagles to support them. The team has been receptive, inviting several groups to a meeting at its practice facility a few days before Vick played to discuss ways to help, including the possibility of financial support.


AP Sports Writers Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia and Dennis Waszak Jr. in East Rutherford, N.J., contributed to this report.