Andy Reid had just finished attending a ceremony for a Fallen Hero (soldier killed in action) as part of his USO tour in Afghanistan when he was told about a report that the Eagles were "strongly considering" releasing quarterback Michael Vick according to a source who is "familiar with the team's thinking." Reid wasted no time debunking the report's credibility.
"That's not true," said Reid. "You can squash that one."
And so the Eagles have squashed the report, and all the others suggesting that they are planning to take some kind of action with Vick, who last week attended a birthday party thrown on his behalf in Virginia Beach, VA and, according to reports, left the nightclub/restaurant/hot spot where the party was held prior to a shooting that reportedly injured Quanis Phillips, Vick's co-defendant in the dogfighting case that cost Vick two years of his left incarcerated.
From the very start, Vick denied any involvement in the shooting, and he cooperated with the local investigation and with the Eagles' inquiry and, certainly, the league's many questions. The Eagles, knowing how they do things in instances like this, have been extremely thorough in their fact-gathering process to sort the media reports from the truth.
Reid's "that's not true" is consistent with the statement the Eagles sent out on Saturday afternoon in which they backed Vick and said they would continue to collect facts and learn more about the incident.
What does it all mean? It means the Eagles aren't rushing into the public speculation. It means that, as I read the situation, everything that Vick has told the team and the league has checked out clean, and that from the very start he told the truth and had nothing to do with the shooting. It means that this story could very well have a lot of bark and not much bite.
It means that Vick is an Eagle unless things change dramatically. Did Vick commit a crime in Virginia Beach? According to the police at this point, the answer is no? Did he violate any terms of his probation with the NFL, or the Eagles? That answer isn't entirely clear or complete now as the facts continue to come to the surface, but to this point the answer is no. Did Vick commit an error in judgment, as former NFL coach and Vick mentor Tony Dungy suggested? That could be the case, and Vick has probably agonized over his decision to even attend the party held in his birthday honor.
During a slow news period, Vick's story has been widely discussed and debated. Don't doubt that the Eagles have been complete in their behind-the-scenes research of the story, and have drawn their own conclusions based upon the facts of the story. The truth is, Vick has been a model citizen and a great locker-room presence in the 11 months he has been in Philadelphia.
But Vick has baggage, and the Eagles knew going in that everything he did would be under the microscope. That isn't going to change. There aren't backup quarterbacks anywhere who have Vick's enormous profile and who draw the reaction he does in just about every situation. And the Eagles understand the minute margin of error that Vick has here.
This is a story that has new reports and twists and turns every day. That goes with the territory. But there is no deception and no setting up "a next step" here. The Eagles are standing by Vick, as they have from the day when Vick joined the team.