Michael Vick, convicted felon and newly signed Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, told fans today that he is excited about the opportunity to play ball again but that he's "conscious of his one shot at a second chance."
"I was wrong for what I did," said Vick, 29, who was convicted in August 2007 of conspiracy and running a dog-fighting ring that brutally killed and tortured canines.
Vick, who was once the NFL's highest-paid player, served 18 months of a 23-month sentence in federal prison before being released in May.
"I know I made mistakes and have done some terrible things and made a horrible mistake," Vick said.
"And, now, I want to be a part of the solution and not the problem."
Vick vowed to work in the community with the Humane Society to bring awareness to cruelty to animals and said that he hopes to "help more animals than I once hurt."
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The Philadelphia Eagles announced its decision to sign Vick to a $1.6 million one-year deal with the team, with an option for a second year, late Thursday evening. Vick will be able to participate in team practices, meetings and two pre-season games but will not be eligible for full reinstatement until at least week six of the regular season.
"I now know that playing in the NFL is a privilege and not a right, and I want to do whatever is necessary to be the best ambassador to the NFL and the community," Vick said.
Vick thanked his family and friends, particularly Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who lobbied for Vick's signing along with the team's coach, Andy Reid.
"It's a surreal feeling right now, I couldn't envision this two years ago," Vick said of his signing to a top-tier team three months after being released from prison.
"I was optimistic it would happen one day, but I knew it would be a long process; I'm just happy I have the opportunity now," he said.
Asked whether he believes there is any crime a person can commit that might not warrant a second chance, Vick said, "I think everyone deserves a second chance."
Philadelphia Eagles' Fans React to Michael Vick's Signing
But Eagles' fans aren't so sure, and have mixed reactions to Vick's signing.
Mary Bishop, a writer and blogger from Stratford, Conn., told ABCNews.com that Vick's signing means she will no longer be rooting for the Eagles.
"I was a huge Eagles fan – I would always watch them if they were on, even if all my relatives liked other teams," Bishop said. "But now, I'm absolutely disgusted."
"I don't think a little slap on the wrist was enough for Michael Vick," she said. "He tortured animals and if you can torture an animal, I believe you can torture a human."
Bishop, who said she frequents sports bars to watch her favorite teams play, vows to walk out of a restaurant that is playing an Eagles game on television. "If bars don't change the channel when I'm in there, I'm out of there," she said.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a statement on Vick's signing, criticizing the Eagles' decision.
"PETA and millions of decent football fans around the world are disappointed that the Philadelphia Eagles have chosen to sign a man who hanged dogs from trees, electrocuted them with jumper cables, held them underwater until they drowned in his swimming pool, and even threw his own family dogs into the fighting pit to be torn to shreds while he laughed," the statement read.
But Kevin Giewont, a devout Eagles fan, says time behind bars was punishment enough for Vick.
"He deserves a second chance," Giewont said. "He's obviously paid his dues -- he spent two years in prison."
Ryan Rodden, a 25-year-old Philadelphia resident who says he never misses an Eagles' game, said the Eagles made the right call in signing Vick.
"He served his time in jail and he deserves a second chance and I think a lot of people in Philly believe that," Rodden said.
"Everyone has seen what Vick can do in the NFL," he said. "He's extremely dangerous on the field – he's a huge play maker and to have him on your team is great."
Will Michael Vick Get Endorsements?
Vick has had endorsement deals with several major corporations, including Coca-Cola, EA Sports and Nike, but whether these sponsors will be willing to work with him again is unclear.
"I suspect that for certain products, there will be an interest in having Vick represent the brand, whereas for others it will take much more than a team signing him to [hire Vick for a campaign]," said Andrew Zimbalist, author of "The Bottom Line: Observations and Arguments on the Sports Business."
"In general, if you're talking about household family type products, then he's still got a way to go," Zimbalist said. "But, for instance, Gatorade might be something that would work.
"There will be a sector of the population who will be more morally sensitive to what Vick did, but others will indifferent or find it somewhat appealing that he lives on the edge."