Philadelphia Eagles News

Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie On Michael Vick

Opening Remarks: "I'm just going to speak from the heart and speak from the hip because there is nothing really to prepare. This took a lot of soul searching for me. I was asked to approve Michael Vick joining a very proud organization several days ago. Sometimes in life you have to make extremely difficult and soul-searching decisions where there is no right answer. There are probably a lot of wrong answers, but there is no clear path and no right answer. This was one of them. First and foremost, anybody who knows me personally knows I'm an extreme dog lover. I have a (head) Coach (Andy Reid) that is and a quarterback in Donovan (McNabb) that is. Just on a personal level, I was asked to approve something, approve Michael coming to the Eagles after having committed something that so many of us, and myself very much included, regard as horrific behavior. I don't even have words to describe the cruelty, the torture, the complete disregard for any definition of common decency. I don't have the words. In the past two years I've had two dogs that have passed away. I think about them every day. That's the nature of a human and a dog and that's the way it should be. This represented, to me, the polar opposite and the worst possible behavior of a human being or a group of human beings and dogs. My family has two dogs, one of which we rescued from abuse. When you are asked to approve something that you completely find despicable and anathema, it takes a lot of soul searching.

"I've had an opportunity in the past week to have conversations and listen to the words of three people that I admire greatly, three people in the National Football League, who for me, are at the top of the pedestal when it comes to integrity, and that's Coach Andy Reid, Coach Tony Dungy and Commissioner Roger Goodell. I learned a lot. I learned the process with Michael on what's happened over the last few years. I was not a student of Michael's experience over the last couple of years of what had exactly gone on in detail. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to know about the cruelty, the torture, the humiliation, and I most of all wanted to understand why Michael was being reinstated into the National Football League, a league that he disgraced. After multiple conversations I felt more open. (I felt) more open to giving a human being a second chance, who possibly could become a socially active NFL player who actually could do great things off the field. It's not easy for an athlete to accomplish a lot off the field while they are in the middle of their careers. Sometimes if you take somebody who had created horrendous behavior in any field, whether it was creating the Atomic Bomb and then becoming an anti-nuclear activist, or whatever it is, you have an opportunity – and the question became somewhat, for me, 'Could this man I don't know, Michael Vick, become an agent for change?' Could one be counterintuitive here on my part, take away the hatred for this kind of behavior and say going forward, 'Can this human being, Michael Vick, like some that deserve a second chance, could he become a positive force in our community, Philadelphia, nationally – could that be?' Or is this just a method to reinvigorate a career and not really have both the remorse and the commitment. I needed to really dissect remorse. I wanted to understand if he had enough self hatred, for me. I needed to see a lot of self hatred in order to approve this.

"As all of you know we take great pride in building a high-character team. This is very counterintuitive, extremely counterintuitive. The question I eventually had to ask is, 'Going forward is Michael going to be a negative force in society the way he's been? Is he going to be responsible for pain, suffering, disappointment, disloyalty, criminal behavior? Or is he going to have an opportunity and be able to be committed enough to take the bull by the horns and become a force for good?' I spent a lot of time talking to Commissioner Goodell about this, who had spent hours and hours and hours of grilling, in a very difficult way, Michael Vick. I listened to Coach Reid, and I know everything Andy stands for, including how he's had to deal with a lot of his own personal problems with his sons and the second chance, that Britt (Reid) has become able to turn his life around. Coach Dungy is somebody, who there's only a handful of people in the NFL that I just completely respect their integrity, their honesty, and their commitment to doing the right thing in the community. Tony has spent so much time in prisons, so much time dealing with people that for whatever reason did horrendous things. He was absolutely 100 percent sure that there was an opportunity here if Michael could be in the right situation to do societal good. Frankly, the legend of Michael Vick will be determined as we go forward. It won't be determined on the field of football. His life, he will never ever be able to recover from what he criminally and murderously took part in, but he has an opportunity to create a legend where maybe he can be a force in stopping the horrendous cruelty to animals, the dog fighting. A lot of us probably have our heads in the sands, and I know I have, when it comes to what really goes on in inner cities and around the country with dog fighting and cruelty to animals. It's not a good picture. I spent a lot of time talking to Michael directly even after Commissioner Goodell, Andy Reid, Tony Dungy; I still wanted to spend the time directly with him and did that, just the two of us. That's unprecedented in the way we operate with the Eagles because I have a very, very close, and as you know respectful relationship, with Andy Reid, and there's really never been an instance where he wanted to acquire a player and I said, 'I don't want to.' This is one where I had to discover it for myself. I spent hours with Michael. (I) asked him extremely tough questions. (I) tried to evaluate remorse. It's a tough thing to do while skeptical. You're innately skeptical of somebody that is capable of doing horrendous things, that they could be remorseful.

"In spending the time with Michael, I think he deserves that opportunity. He's going to have to prove it in actions, not in words. I can only read his eyes so much. I can only read his emotions so much and the words. He's going to have to prove to Philadelphia, to the United States, to the National Football League, to human beings, and to animals everywhere that this man is committed, as he said to me and I think said publicly, to save more animals than he has been responsible for eliminating. He's one of the few that could probably pull this off because of how bad his actions have been. In terms of, I think influencing young people to not take part in dog fighting and respecting animals, people will listen to somebody who has been through it much more than somebody who is just saying the right thing. Anyway, I guess to make a long story shorter, this was an impossibly difficult decision to approve. Commissioner Goodell, Tony and Andy were extremely encouraging. Meeting with Michael, I felt the self hatred, I felt the remorse, I felt the plans going forward could be very, very fruitful for animal rights in America. This is not a slam dunk. He's going to have to be absolutely committed to be proactive. If we don't have an extremely proactive player here off the field, then this is a terrible decision. It's counterintuitive. It's going to be initially disappointing to some people that we have given him the second chance and I'm aware of that. Sometimes you have to make decisions that are very difficult. My hope is that as we go forward, that Michael will prove his value in society. Whether he becomes a good football player again is possible, but more importantly for Michael and for the National Football League, he has an opportunity to be a very valuable member of society and that's the goal here. I'm sure there is a lot more (I could say), and I'm sure you have a lot of questions, and I'd be very happy to answer anything you want."

On why the Eagles felt the need to be the crusader in this situation: "I don't think I saw this as an opportunity or a position of being a crusader. Again, I saw a man who was extremely remorseful, who hated what he had accomplished in terms of perpetrated, who had served two years of prison time, and who really wants to have changed his life. There was an opportunity here to be a support system, a coach that really felt strongly that we did have the support in place with players that would be extremely supportive and a staff that is, and a football team that didn't really rely on his reintroduction to the National Football League to be very successful. A mentor in Donovan, it was important to me that Donovan really wanted to, in a sense, take this on. If there was any equivocation there, if the thoughts hadn't come from Donovan originally on how he felt we should proceed here, there's no way I would have, and probably Coach Reid would have, gone in that direction."

On how they plan to measure his contributions to society, and whether their only measuring stick is on yardage: "We don't measure him on yardage. My own measurement of Michael Vick will be 100 percent, 'is he able to create social change in this horrendous arena of animal cruelty?' Whether he is successful with us on the field, sure I hope he is. But his legend and whether we are giving him a second chance will be successful if he can diminish the level of animal cruelty. That's it. If he is not proactive he won't be on the team because that's part of the agreement."

On how he decides which players are worth taking a chance on and which players aren't worth taking a chance, and specifically why Broncos FS Brian Dawkins didn't deserve a second chance: "To be factual, we have a free agency system in the National Football League. The players collectively bargained for that. We support that. A player, when his contract is up, is free to sign with any team possible. You're bringing up a player who is probably my favorite player of all time, Brian Dawkins. He chose to accept a contract, a larger contract from the Denver Broncos, and I wish him all the best of luck in the world because we wanted to keep Brian, but it's the player's right when their contract is up. They take a gamble to play out their contract, no matter how aggressively or whatever decisions you make, whether it's Tampa Bay with (LB) Derrick Brooks or us making an offer with Brian Dawkins, (there are) different scenarios. You have to live with the free agency system and we support that."

On how he measures players: "I think what you do, with every player, you measure what you think the contributions going forward will be and that's exactly what we do with every player. Brian has been a great member of the Philadelphia Eagles and will always be a legend here and will always be a part of our organization."

On whether he believes that the majority of people support the Eagles decision to sign Vick: "I think there will be people who will disagree with giving somebody who perpetrated horrendous behavior a second chance. I don't think our society in this country works that way in terms of if you don't give somebody a second chance, it's usually been mandated by the justice system where you have prison for life. Michael served his term completely and it's now up to him to prove that the decision to give him a second chance was the right decision. It's in actions, it's not in words. Yes, there will be people that will be against giving this man a second chance and I understand that. That's why it's a soul-searching decision, because I don't disagree with the feeling of some people don't deserve a second chance. But in listening to those (people) that I listen to, especially Tony, Andy and Commissioner Goodell, and listening to Michael, I just felt I leaned toward the decision to give a second chance. There are going to be many fans that disagree with that and many fans that will be very supportive of that. In our society we tend to follow the justice system and when there are ex-offenders we try to provide support and you hope the plan going forward is a positive and not a negative. There is no room for error on Michael's part. There are no third chances and we know that. That's the thing, if this isn't fulfilled the way we expect it to be then that will be the end."

On why he would risk the stability of this team given the amount of talent and stability on this team by signing Vick: "I think often times when you operate a sports team you have to make unpopular and counterintuitive decisions. Some of the best decisions that have been made have been the ones that have been the most unpopular. I'm very respectful of the talent on the field and also the character of the players we have. If I thought for one instance that this player would be disruptive or unable to be a good teammate and not become a role model, then there's no way I would have allowed this to happen. If it becomes at all apparent that we are wrong, it won't take very long to make that change. I've often said that we are full pedal to the metal and when Coach Reid said this man can give us a dimension that we don't have and add another weapon to our offense in unpredictable ways, in partnership with the players that we have and the quarterback we have, then again, a soul-searching tough decision but something that we think can improve the team and at the same time create social change."

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