- Associated Press - Monday, August 25, 2014

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) - Michael Vick remembers taking the drive to Philadelphia to restart his NFL career - and loathing every minute of the ride.

He was getting a second chance after serving nearly two years in prison for his role in a dogfighting ring. But Vick wasn’t sure if the Eagles were the right fit.

What if, he thought, after all this time away from football, he was making a huge mistake?

“I’ll never forget,” Vick recalled Monday. “It was a place I didn’t want to be. I wanted to go to a team and start, but I knew I was going to sit behind Donovan (McNabb) and Kevin Kolb. I just remember being angry the whole trip and kind of upset - almost a disgruntled employee before I could even get there.”

Once Vick arrived on that August day in 2009, he sat down with McNabb, then-coach Andy Reid and then-offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, and everything changed.

“I said, ‘OK,’” said Vick, now with the New York Jets and reunited with Mornhinweg. “I didn’t know how long it would be, but I was like, ‘OK, this can be my home for a year,’ and it ended up being home for five years. That’s how God works.”

Because of that, Vick says, Philadelphia will hold a special place in his heart, despite the rocky start.

“There will always be the sense of gratitude,” he said. “That’ll never change.”

Vick, now the backup to Geno Smith with the Jets, is expected to take a few snaps Thursday night when he returns to Philadelphia in the teams’ preseason finale.

With the Eagles, Vick rehabilitated his image and re-established himself as one of the NFL’s most dynamic players. He dealt with injuries, too, but there was no doubt that the player whose eye-popping athletic ability was often compared to a video game was still there. Even last season, Vick was looking good in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense until he injured a hamstring in the fifth game. He returned three games later, but was ineffective. Nick Foles replaced him during that game - and Vick never started again.

Despite how his five seasons ended in Philadelphia, Vick insisted he’s “absolutely” OK with it.

“I never want to play second fiddle to anybody,” he said, “but I just felt like that team was in such a groove that I didn’t want to try to become a distraction even though I could have fought for my position and fought for the job.

“But I just felt like that team was just in a good place and didn’t want to interrupt that.”

He became a free agent and signed with the Jets in March, fully aware that the team was going to give Smith every opportunity to be the starter in his second season. After the Jets’ preseason loss to the Giants last Friday, Rex Ryan announced that Smith would be under center in Week 1.

Meanwhile, Vick will be counted on to mentor Smith and be able to step in if the young quarterback falters - a role he accepted last season in Philadelphia.

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