When the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets face off tonight in the final preseason game of 2014, you will probably see players from both sides shaking hands, as is customary to do in the NFL before kickoff.
One thing you probably won’t see is Riley Cooper on his knees handing Michael Vick a bouquet of flowers, and that’s unfortunate because if not for Vick, Cooper would not be playing football today.
Perhaps he did it because Vick knows better than anybody the value of second chances.
After his prison term for dog fighting (and dog fighting is a very, very kind descriptor for the things that Vick did to helpless animals), Vick was a social pariah. Animal rights groups protested when the Eagles signed him to a deal and wanted him nowhere near the stadium. But the Eagles took a chance on Vick and resurrected his career.
And so when Riley Cooper got caught on camera saying a very nasty word, Vick did the right thing and paid it forward. Now he wants everybody to know.
In an interview yesterday with Ian O’Connor of ESPN New York, Vick wasn’t shy about claiming that he saved Cooper’s career:
“I just felt like I was the most capable guy on that team of taking a stand for Riley, and being a voice for him at that time,” Vick said. Without taking that stand and being that voice, Vick maintained, the video of Cooper’s racial slur “was going to derail our team. Unfortunately, it was going to derail Riley’s career. It would have ended his career.”
— Def Pen™ (@defpen) August 28, 2014
Then he dropped this bomb:
“A couple of things transpired since [the incident] that I dislike, and I’ll be honest with you,” Vick said. “After he signed his contract, I sent him a text and I never got a text back, and that made me feel a certain type of way. But I’m not the type of guy who holds grudges.”
Wow. Just wow.
I obviously dont know Cooper personally and can’t speak to what happened exactly, but I find it mind-blowing that Cooper would not even return a text message after everything Vick did for him. By sticking his neck out for Cooper, Vick made an unpopular choice because he didn’t want to see one mistake ruin a man’s career. At the very least you’d think that he could text back a thank you?
Even though his text went unanswered, Vick says that sticking up for Cooper was his proudest moment as a professional athlete.