Sunday Night Football. Michael Vick, the resurgent leader of the Philadelphia Eagles, taking his much-hyped team down to his former stomping grounds in Atlanta to take on the defending regular season champions of the NFC. The Week 2 Eagles-Falcons matchup has all the makings for a blockbuster and, for his part, Vick, who previously returned to Atlanta as a backup in 2009, is plenty aware of the circumstances surrounding the game.
"Going back as a starter is different than it was in 2009 when I spot-played a little bit and just had an opportunity to go out there and make a couple plays," said Vick Wednesday. "The emotional aspect of it I'm over, but it'll be great to go back to the (Georgia) Dome, play against a former team, have an opportunity to play against some guys that I played with. It's going to be different going back as the starter, but at the same time, it'll be fun."
As for the crowd reaction, nothing would surprise Vick.
"That's something I haven't thought about or really don't want to get into," he said. "I still have a lot of love for the fans down there, but keep in mind I am with the opposition now. I don't expect it to be in my favor due to the fact that I'm out there full time, but we'll see. That's the fun part of the game and we're just going to enjoy the day."
Vick, meanwhile, is a much different player than he was during his time in Atlanta. Then, he was an unrestrained super-athlete, playing the game with reckless abandon and little regard for the role of a traditional quarterback. Now, under the tutelage of Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg, Vick has added patience and an understanding of the quarterback position to his still prolific athletic repertoire.
"Maturity has been something that I think has been the biggest reason why I'm able to accomplish the things that I've been able to accomplish today," Vick said. "Just being older, with age comes the maturation process. Everything just happens in time."
Of course, there are more pressing matters for the Eagles than the Vick-in-Atlanta angle. For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, Sunday night provides an early gauge of where the Eagles stand among their NFC competitors. Yes, the Falcons lost 30-12 in their season opener against the Bears, but they should only provide more motivation for the home team come Sunday night. And keep in mind that over the past three seasons, the Falcons are a much better team at home, where they've gone 20-4 since 2008.
"This is a business trip for us," Vick said. "Trust me, they're going to come out and play with an edge. We all know their record at home, they're a great football team at home and they do some excellent things in the dome. There are going to be some things we're going to counteract and we're going to have to be ready to go when we get out there.
"This is a great opportunity for us to get off to a fast start."
Despite allowing 30 points in their season opener, the Falcons sport a talented defense that added free agent prize Ray Edwards in the offseason to a squad that already included Pro Bowlers John Abraham and Dunta Robinson, not to mention the underappreciated Brent Grimes and Kroy Biermann. And like the Eagles, the Falcons still recorded 5.0 sacks in their opener, so Vick has a good idea of what to expect.
"I'm expecting the blitz," he said. "I expect to see that and that's what we're preparing for, that's what we're practicing for and I expect to see that until, I don't know, the fifth or sixth game of the season. Teams may think that's the way to try to get after us but we have so many weapons, so many ways to counter that, I mean, how much could you do?"
With all eyes on Atlanta Sunday night, we'll soon find out.