ATLANTIC CITY --Flanked by a wealth of football talent honored by an organization steeped in tradition, Andy Reid and Michael Vick spent all of Friday in the spotlight, humbled by their inclusion into a fraternity unlike any other in the country. The Maxwell Football Club Awards are in their 74th year and the honorees here were as acclaimed as any in the organization's history: Collegians Patrick Peterson and Cam Newton and Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer were among those named, and they enjoyed a day they would not soon forget.
It meant something for Reid, and for Vick. Both have won their share of football awards, and both appreciate their place in the Maxwell Football Club list of honorees.
"I accept this very graciously and feel that this is a special day," said Vick, after he answered questions from a swarm of reporters for 15 minutes. "It means a lot to me."
Said Reid: "This is a great football institution and I'm honored to be here. I'm not in it for the individual thing, but the Maxwell Football Club is a special deal. So this is a great thing to be here. I am very thankful for that."
So it was with a gleam that both Reid and Vick accepted their awards and enjoyed their days. But there was also a nagging tug of something wrong during the day, because both Reid and Vick spent too much time deflecting stories that marred the day of celebration.
For Reid, the tone of the questions he faced much of the time dealt with the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the what-if and could-be aspect of the offseason.
"I'm not here to talk about that," Reid said, over and over again.
That didn't stop the questions, however. Why not take a day and laud Reid for the award, rather than take the negative spin? Is it that newsworthy to report on something Reid has absolutely no control over?
Apparently, it is. And that's a shame. Reid has done enough to merit one day, one stinkin' day, to answer a series of positive questions rather than those along the lines of "What happens if there is no offseason for you, Coach?"
This isn't meant to be a pity party for Reid, because he is a big boy and he understands the lay of the land in the NFL. Reid has been the head coach for 12 years here, so he understands that the only time he will receive unconditional love is when he wins the Super Bowl. I'm sure Reid knew going in that the majority of the questions he would face would have nothing to do with the football team, or the remarkable development of Vick, or the exciting immediate future for the Philadelphia Eagles.
That's the way it is when you are a head coach in the big leagues ...
Vick, on the other hand, had his day completely disrupted by a report that his "scheduled" live television appearance on ESPN was "pulled" by the Eagles. The resulting media reporting on the story again cast Vick in an unfavorable light, which was completely unfair to one of the most gracious and accommodating players I have ever encountered in the Eagles locker room.
By now, you probably can trace the details of Friday's story. ESPN announced that Vick would appear on ESPN First Take and that the television show was ready for the quarterback's appearance. During the course of the show, hosts Dana Jacobson and Jay Crawford took their shots at Vick and at the Eagles when it became apparent that Vick would not appear on the show.
Consequently, the initial reports of the conflict slammed Vick, in particular. It was shameful reporting, and by the time the Eagles issued their statement that the interview had never been cleared by the Eagles, or by Vick, or by anyone near Vick, the damage was already done. Those who read the early reports judged Vick based on the erroneous previous accounts of what happened.
A couple of hours later, the Maxwell Football Club issued its release.
"There was a communication problem that was 'totally' the fault of the Maxwell Football Club in clearing Michael for the interview. Michael Vick was never asked to do the interview and never cancelled," said Ron Jaworski, the President of the Maxwell Football Club. "Michael has been very cooperative in all our dealings with him in regard to winning the Bert Bell Award as the NFL Player of the Year. I want to be crystal clear that Michael has been amazing in dealing with the media and this issue is totally the fault of The Maxwell Football Club and I take full responsibility."
Mistakes are made. The Eagles and the Maxwell Football Club and Jaworski have, obviously, great relationships. But the early reporting spread the vicious and, as it turned out, completely false story of what happened, so those fans who happened by the story once heard only that version.
And so Vick took his lumps from those who were provided completely false information from media who were in such a hurry to get the story out and slam Vick that they didn't take time to collect the facts.
It is such an unfair way to portray Vick, who, in fact, has been an incredibly cooperative player with the media, with the fans and with eveyone within the organization. from the day he joined the Eagles. Vick is cordial and well spoken. He thinks before he answers. He says yes to virtually every reasonable request.
And maybe that is what is getting him into the kinds of situations he faced on Friday. Perhaps Vick is too willing to share his time and work with the media now. Maybe reporters and media outlets just expect Vick to say yes, because he so rarely says no. It seems to me that too many organizations want a piece of Vick and they are promoting his presence in their A) media event; B) charity outing or C) celebrity function when, in fact, Vick is unaware that he is even being included in the event.
Look, Vick is taking some hits right now. His name is linked to, it seems, every TV show and national organization and charity moment that is impossible for him to make everybody happy. He has no need to work so hard to fulfill all of the demands. Vick needs to do what he has done to get back to this point, and nothing more. The guy is great, an absolute gem of a person.
Let's hope both Reid and Vick shrugged off the jagged steps of a day of celebration. They were among the biggest stars in a galaxy of them in Atlantic City, a day to celebrate outstanding accomplishments in the eyes of their peers. Don't they deserve one day to enjoy the fruits of their success in this world of negative news?
Is that too much to ask?