Dictionary.com describes "redemption" as "deliverance, rescue, atonement for guilt, or theologically: deliverance from sin, salvation." And "redeem" means "to recover or make amends for."
Michael Vick has displayed all of these definitions this season playing quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. I must admit I was one of the skeptics when I heard that he had been signed fresh out of two years of prison by the Eagles at the beginning of last season. I am an animal lover and I did not like the stories of abuse I heard regarding his dog fighting operation.
I thought he would bring poison and dissension into the locker room a la Terrell Owens , the talented wide receiver who famously fought with then quarterback, Donovan McNabb during their Super Bowl run in 2004-05. I thought the Eagles would become a laughing stock with a reputation of taking ex-cons for a small fee and an insurance policy for the quarterback position which was already covered by an aging, injury prone veteran (McNabb) and an upcoming star of the future (Kevin Kolb). I didn't see the point of it.
I was wrong. Turns out the other Eagles players love Michael Vick, even voting him courageous player of the year last season (the Ed Block Courage Award, a distinction that at the time I thought was bogus) though he saw limited playing time, coming in on only the wildcat formations. Turns out the 2009 starting quarterback, Donovan McNabb lobbied for the Eagles to sign Vick and they are good friends.
Also it turns out the head coach, Andy Reid, shares an affinity with Vick, having two sons who spent time in jail for drug and weapons charges. It seems Reid believes in second chances.
I began to turn around my thinking of Michael Vick this season when I watched him take over for the injured starter, Kevin Kolb, who was knocked out with a concussion the first game of the season. He played like a man possessed. Vick played as though he was given redemption or a second chance in the game he loves.
Vick played so well that steadfast Andy Reid had to recant his quarterback controversy statements that "Kolb is the starter when he gets healthy" to "Vick is our number one quarterback for the season." Seems you can't stop a force of nature, which is what Vick has become. Even though he was injured (ribs and cartilage) in week four against the Washington Redskins and had to miss the next three games (in which Kevin Kolb filled in nobly), in the four games that he has started and finished the Eagles are 4-0 and Vick is the number one ranked quarterback in the league.
In Monday night's game against division rival Redskins (ironically led by Donovan McNabb), Vick was other worldly leading the Birds to a 59-28 rout. You knew it was going to be a magical night when the first offensive play of the game went 88 yards with a pass to DeSean Jackson for a touchdown. Vick was 20 for 28 in passing, had 4 passing touchdowns, 2 rushing touchdowns, and 80 yards rushing. In all there were 592 yards gained. His quarterback rating was 150.7.
No only were these numbers phenomenal, they were record breaking for the Eagles and Monday Night Football: biggest lead at the end of the first quarter for a road team in NFL history (28-0), most points scored in a half (45) by an NFL road team ever, the first quarterback to throw for three touchdowns and run for two in a first half.
What impressed me the most about Michael Vick was his press conference after the game. He was humble and praised his team and coaches saying they made it happen. And when asked about Donovan McNabb's new contract extension of $78 million with the Redskins he said he was happy for him. When pressed about his own contract future options with the Eagles he seemed surprised by the question and said others would take care of that and now he is focused on next week's game with the NY Giants, which will determine first place in the division.
He sounded like a man not concerned about money, but football. When asked if had envisioned a night like this when he was first signed by the Eagles, he said no and that he wasn't expecting to start this season and he was as surprised as everyone with this turn of events.
It's possible that he was being truthful when he made all of his apologies for his irresponsible actions when he first signed with the Eagles. It may be he is sincere in his efforts to bring awareness to the issue of dog fighting and has been visiting middle schools each week to talk about it as Governor Rendell pointed out in his commentary on Comast Sports last night.
It's possible his time in jail made him see all he had thrown away and caused him to be repentant and want a second chance to prove himself. The Eagles and circumstances have given him that chance and he seems like a man ready to take full advantage of it. Turns out the 2009-10 season was a training ground for Vick to get back in shape, learn the offense from the sidelines, and prepare for the day when he could again emerge as a force to be reckoned with.
That day has arrived and Vick and the Eagles are ready to fly. He is playing the best football of his career. The Eagles' offensive schemes have highlighted his talents. He's a strong passer, fast runner, and now a patient pocket quarterback. The run has now become Vick's last option when all his receivers are covered. He is not the same scattered quarterback he was in Atlanta.
It's a dream come true for Vick to play with a strong offensive line that seems to get better with each passing game and a boost for the Eagles team to have a dynamic leader who actually scores touchdowns in the red zone (as opposed to field goals.)
Andy Reid's teams have always played well down the stretch and now the Eagles (if Vick can stay healthy) are poised to have a strong second half hopefully ending with the divisional title and a shot at the playoffs.
Michael Vick already is the comeback story of the year and he has taught all of us the power of grace, humility, and most of all redemption.