Michael Vick walks slowly off the practice field, sweat dripping from his face as he heads to the locker room after another in a series of punishing two-hour-plus training-camp sessions under the watchful -- and demanding -- eyes of coach Andy Reid.
Like his teammates, some of whom have vomited because of the unrelenting practices in the oppressive heat and humidity at Lehigh University, Vick is exhausted. But as we head toward the locker room, there is a smile of satisfaction after this latest step in his mission to move past the colossal disappointment of last season.
Tired, yes. But Vick also said he has never felt better. About himself. About his game. About his team.
"This is the best I've felt in the last three years since I've come back to play," said Vick, who missed the 2007 and 2008 seasons after pleading guilty to charges of running an illegal dogfighting operation. "Physically and mentally, this is the best. So that's why I feel like we're capable of going out and accomplishing a lot. But we know this right here is where it all starts. It's hard work. There's no substitute for it."
It has been a soul-searching journey these last four years for Vick, who served nearly two years in prison for his crimes and repeatedly has admitted the error of his ways while now attempting to raise awareness about animal cruelty. In his newly published autobiography, "Finally Free," Vick detailed his passion for dogfighting as well as his sobering and humbling realization of how loathsome his behavior was.
"I became better at reading dogs than reading defenses. That's just so sad to say right now, because I put more time and effort into trying to master that pursuit than my own profession . . . which was my livelihood . . . which put food on the table for my family," Vick wrote.
His written mea culpa now will serve as his reference point for the past; Vick has said he will not -- at least for the time being -- discuss his involvement with dogfighting. He wrote what he had to say in the book.
It also is a way of moving forward with his life, concentrating on a career that he believes now is at a point that he can achieve the ultimate accomplishment: a Super Bowl championship. And perhaps more than one.
Vick said in a recent radio interview that with all their talent, he thinks the Eagles can become a dynasty; he hasn't used that word since, mostly because it can be almost radioactive because of the level of expectation it creates. But he doesn't back down for one second about how impressed he is with the players around him.
"It's an awesome group, and I really appreciate the situation I'm in," he said. "It's very gratifying to have the players around me that I can go out and have success with. Those are the kind of players you want to play with. Not only are they a great group of players but they've got great personalities and attitudes. It's an absolutely great group to be around."
That said, this is essentially the same group that had an underachieving season in 2011. The "Dream Team," as former backup quarterback Vince Young called it, fell out of playoff contention early on, sputtering to a 4-8 record before reeling off four straight victories to close out an 8-8 season. Despite a host of acquisitions through free agency and trades, the Eagles turned out to be one of the NFL's biggest disappointments.
Vick's take: This will not happen again.
And if they do turn things around, it is a virtual certainty that Vick will be at the top of the list of the reasons why.
"I just feel really comfortable about things," Vick said. "Mentally, it's another year of doing what we did last year, and I've seen [plays and formations] over and over again, just getting comfortable with it."
This is one very confident quarterback.
"We believe in our personnel and our players," Vick said, "and it starts with me."