When the Philadelphia Eagles welcome back former quarterback Michael Vick to Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday night as a member of the New York Jets, they will be hosting the man who may have saved the career of starting wide receiver Riley Cooper.
In a column released by ESPN's Ian O'Connor, Vick discussed his decision to defuse the situation following a leaked video of Cooper dropping the "N-word" during last year's off-season. His teammates (a majority of which were black) were angered by the recorded reaction of the former Florida Gator to a security guard at a Kenny Chesney concert.
Vick was one of a handful of Eagles players that stood behind Cooper following the incident. "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," the now-Jets quarterback said. Vick then claimed that had he not stepped up for Cooper, the incident "was going to derail our team. Unfortunately, it was going to derail Riley's career. It would have ended his career."
While there is no way to know if Cooper would have been done in the NFL if he didn't have the support of Vick and the Eagles coaching staff, chances are that he would have been targeted by opponents and teammates alike. "[Eagles players] might not have forgotten about it, but they forgave him," Vick said. "We had guys talking about knocking him out, taking his head off, doing X, Y and Z to him on the field, and none of that happened, out of respect for myself, I think."
While Vick had helped Cooper off of the field, the quarterback and wide receiver failed to connect on Sundays. Vick completed just 20-of-46 passes (45%) for 280 yards, two touchdowns and one interception when throwing to Cooper in their three seasons as teammates. Those numbers resulted in a dreadful 69.1 quarterback rating.
Vick said that Cooper was like a "brother" to him, but that the current Eagles starter had not responded to a congratulatory text message that the quarterback had sent to the receiver after he signed a long-term pact with the team. "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."
The two will now meet this week as members of different teams and Cooper may be able to explain the lack of a returned text message.
Source close to Vick told me Vick and Cooper have spoken since article came out and are "all good."— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) August 27, 2014