- The Washington Times - Monday, August 17, 2009

Michael Vick, the recovering dogfighting operator, will spend the rest of his playing days groveling before the public and media.

That will be part of the test, along with his work with the Humane Society of the United States.

In the political fashion of the day, Vick could win an appointment as the Groveling Czar. His is a “teachable moment,” after all.

The depth of Vick’s sincerity was put into play during his unveiling with the Eagles, as if anyone has the capacity to peer inside the dark recesses of his mind. That did not stop anyone from trying to measure his contriteness.

This is the game within the game, and it is a game that threatens to overshadow the Eagles all season.

They signed the mother of all distractions, which is saying a lot in a league that counts Terrell Owens as one of its entertainers.

That is not to overlook the sensitivities of Donovan McNabb, the quarterback who is destined to be looking over his shoulder, even if he is saying all the right things at the moment.

McNabb might not be feeling the same after he throws two interceptions in the first half and the rowdy fan base is clamoring for a change.

It made no public-relations sense to sign Vick unless Andy Reid is looking to utilize him in a significant manner.

That would mean using him in places other than on gadget plays and as a wide receiver and punt-return specialist. That would mean sticking him behind the center and letting him ad-lib with chaos all about him. That is what he does best.

With protesters at the gate and the team’s advertisers already being besieged with complaints, the Eagles figure the fallout is worth it only if Vick is able to help them in a convincing way on the field.

And the Eagles, from Reid to owner Jeffrey Lurie, knew there would be fallout.

And it really does not matter how many times Vick expresses remorse this season.

His ongoing apology tour just goes with the football gig.

Vick promises to be up to the apology challenge because of Tony Dungy, a decent, soft-spoken man who has become his counselor. Vick did have 18 months in a federal prison to wonder how someone who once had it all could wind up there.

Vick showed up to the news conference in a conservative suit, the armor of the fallen. That was no accident. It will be no accident how Vick responds the first time he scores a touchdown with the Eagles either.

The chances are fairly strong that he will flip the ball to the turf or to the referee and not make a choreographed show out of it.

This is the reinvention of Vick that goes with the redemption.

Dungy believes in the power of redemption, just as Reid does.

Reid knows heartache from his two drug-addled sons. He wants to believe that a second act can germinate from the depth of despair. It won’t hurt his feelings if Vick turns out to be the piece that puts the Eagles atop the NFC East.

America is the land of second chances, even third and fourth chances if the talent is compelling enough.

Vick challenges that belief because of the heinous nature of his crimes. The conflicted thinking goes something like this: “I think he should be allowed to play in the NFL again, but I wouldn’t sign him.”

The Eagles - and it is mostly on Reid - are taking the risk.

Reid is counting on Vick to win more and more converts with each big play.

It is about winning. It is about keeping fannies in the luxury seats.

Vick should help in that regard and at the bargain salary of $1.625 million this season.

All pieties aside, that was the principal calculation.

Money and wins vs. fallout.

As an added bonus, it would be nice if Vick takes up with redemption.

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