Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback Michael Vick, released from jail in May, has been given permission by the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to play in the third game of the league's regular season. Vick, handed a 23-month prison sentence in 2007 for bankrolling a dogfighting ring, had previously been told by Goodell that full reinstatement would be considered by Week Six. Goodell met with Vick for around 45 minutes before announcing his decision before the Eagles were due to play the New York Jets in their final pre-season game Thursday night.
"Ultimately, it was my decision," Goodell told reporters. "He's very realistic about the challenges ahead." Vick will be eligible to play for the Eagles when they host the Kansas City Chiefs at Lincoln Financial Field on September 27. Asked why he had decided on Week Three for Vick, Goodell replied: "I do not want him to be put in a position where he's overwhelmed." Vick, 29, made his first competitive appearance for the Eagles last week, playing in only the first quarter before his team beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 33-32 in their third pre-season game.
The three-times All-Pro has signed a two-year contract with Philadelphia after being formally dumped by the Atlanta Falcons in June. His subsequent move to the Eagles divided football pundits and prompted some Philadelphia fans to say they would stop supporting the team. However, fans gave Vick warm encouragement for his debut appearance last week and rumours of opposing demonstrations by animal-rights protesters and pro-Vick supporters outside Lincoln Financial Field failed to materialise.
The first overall pick in the 2001 draft, Vick was once one of the NFL's most popular and exciting players before his stunning fall from grace unfolded in 2007. * Reuters