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Vick’s latest chapter comes with a big check

August 30, 2011

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— Michael Vick’s story of redemption ended happily for him Monday. Now, with his signature on a new nine-figure contract, comes the ever-after part of his tale.

There is no question that Vick has made the most of the opportunity the Eagles gave him to resurrect his once brilliant career. On the field, he has again performed as if he escaped from your X-Box, a video-game figure come thrillingly to life. Off the field, he hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been close enough to vindicate the Eagles and the NFL for giving him a second chance.

But all of that has been accomplished by a man chasing one more set-for-life megacontract. Vick had just such a deal with the Atlanta Falcons, but he lost it all, and then some, when he went to federal prison and into bankruptcy. As long as that contract was out there, just out of his reach, Vick had literally 100 million reasons to be a solid citizen, coachable player, and consummate teammate.

He had 100 million reasons not to be the man he was before he lost everything. Now the deal is done and he has 100 million temptations to go right back to his old ways.

That doesn’t mean engaging in the criminal and sick behavior that got him in trouble with the law. It means being the arrogant superstar who coasts instead of works, who gave Atlanta fans the finger literally (once) and figuratively (many, many times), who was more interested in his posse than in his teammates.

Now that the deal is done, we’ll start to learn whether Vick really has changed or whether he has acted the part just long enough to regain what he lost.

As someone who was strongly against the Eagles’ original signing of Vick, I have my doubts. There have been signs over the past year or so that Vick is still the guy who underachieved in Atlanta. Some of his public comments are stunningly egotistical, and would have inflamed Eagles fans if they’d come from the mouth of Donovan McNabb, his predecessor. But Vick is still at the point where he might win a Super Bowl, and is granted slack.

I may never be completely comfortable rooting for Vick, but it would be dishonest to deny his remarkable talent. The disgust at Vick’s cruel destruction of defenseless animals comes from the same sense of human decency that would prefer to see Vick succeed in his redemption.

There has never been a player quite as complicated to root for, or against, as Michael Vick.

With this new contract, all of the risk has shifted from Vick to the Eagles. The team is betting all that money — not to mention Andy Reid’s job — that the Vick they’ve seen is the Vick they will get. They are gambling that Vick truly has evolved into the committed student of the game he has been so far in Philadelphia.

In the two years since he was given this rare second chance, Vick has done everything possible to put himself in position for this deal.

Now he has it. He has completed his journey back to the top. It’s been quite a story.

All that’s left is the happily-ever-after part. It is up to Vick alone to write that.

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