FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Andy Reid understands that many people will criticize him when he says this about Michael Vick, and he's respectful of those who cannot forgive Vick for his longtime involvement in a dogfighting operation. But the Chiefs coach, who gave Vick his second chance when he was with the Eagles, stands by his opinion.
Whether you agree with him or not.
"Michael is a good person,'' Reid said from Kansas City, where he and his Chiefs will face Vick and the Jets on Sunday. "People can question that with all the things that went on [with dogfighting], but Michael's got a big heart.''
It was not an easy decision for Reid to sign Vick before the 2009 season. Vick had served 21 months in prison and was a lightning rod for criticism, especially among animal-rights advocates who were mortified by Vick's actions, which included killing underperforming dogs. There was fierce opposition to the signing.
But Reid believed there was genuine remorse in Vick, and that he could become a productive member of society while acclimating to the NFL.
"He learned some things [in prison], and that was the important part,'' Reid said. "People get in trouble. You want them to figure it out and come out on the better side of it. I think we all do. I think we all want that. Thank goodness we're in America, where people are relatively forgiving, and so he worked to better himself and then he also did the same thing on the football field. He did it as a person. That wasn't an easy thing for him. He worked through it.''
While in Philadelphia, Vick continually expressed remorse, and he partnered with the Humane Society of the United States to advocate against animal abuse. Vick spoke frequently to at-risk youth and appeared at several functions to share his experience and speak out against dogfighting. Reid said he saw a remarkable transformation, personally and as a player.
"I'm proud of him for the man he is and the things that he's done to change things around and bounce back,'' Reid said. "And then as a football player, too. He's going to be 50 years old and still be the fastest guy on the field and the best arm on the field. He's an amazing guy that way.''
Vick, who will start Sunday in place of the struggling Geno Smith, could not imagine a better coach to help resurrect his career.
"I just think that's a situation God created, and I think that was part of the plan,'' Vick said after taking first-team snaps at Wednesday's practice. "Andy couldn't have been a better person, a better man.''
Vick remembers spending hours with Reid, talking about football, talking about life.
"We had a lot of great conversations, at 7 or 8 p.m., just going over film, breaking film down,'' Vick said. "Whatever it was that came to mind, we talked about. It was always all good. I certainly appreciated it, and those times I'll never forget.''
This is the second time Vick will face Reid since they were together in Philly. Last year, the Chiefs beat the Eagles, 26-16, at Lincoln Financial Field, and Vick had a miserable day, throwing two interceptions. Vick thinks it was no accident. As close as the two became, Reid knew Vick's weaknesses and exploited them that day.
"If there's anybody who knows me, it's him,'' Vick said. "There have been times he's sitting there and he told me what he'd do to me if he was playing me. He told me what the other teams were going to do, and they did exactly that. I played against Kansas City last year and it wasn't easy by any stretch, but that's part of the challenge. I've just got to stay disciplined and keep it tight and keep playing my game.''
Regardless of the outcome, Vick's fondness and appreciation for Reid never will change. "It's always going to be good to see him,'' Vick said. "The relationship is a friendship that I will value for the rest of my life.''