NEW YORK (AP) - Michael Vick got the green light for full reinstatement in the NFL on Thursday when commissioner Roger Goodell said the disgraced quarterback could play later this month instead of waiting until October.
Vick, recently signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, will now be able to play in the Sept. 27 game at home against the Kansas City Chiefs. It would be his first regular-season game since he was sent to prison for his role in operating a dogfighting ring. The former Atlanta Falcons star was released from federal custody July 20 after serving 18 months of a 23-month sentence.
Originally, Goodell said he would consider Vick for reinstatement no later than the sixth week of the season - Oct. 18.
"I think he's making real progress," Goodell said at a news conference. "I think he has a better feel for the challenges ahead of him.
"He understands he has very little margin for error, that people are watching him."
Goodell met with Vick earlier Thursday at the Eagles' hotel near Newark International Airport. Philadelphia played the Jets in an exhibition game at the Meadowlands at night.
"He met with Michael this morning and I think he came out of it feeling very confident that Michael's doing the right things and is on the right track," Eagles president Joe Banner said before the game.
"I think Michael wants to play as soon as he can. On the other hand, I think he thinks this was fair."
A three-time Pro Bowl pick during six seasons with the Falcons, Vick was a surprise signing by the Eagles on Aug. 13. He received a one-year deal for $1.6 million with a team option for a second year at $5.2 million.
Vick started practicing with the Eagles on Aug. 15, but did not travel with the team to its second preseason game a week later in Indianapolis because he could not play.
He played six snaps in Philadelphia's home game against Jacksonville last week, lining up at quarterback and receiver. He completed all four of his pass attempts, but the Eagles' offense scored just three points in the possessions he played.
"We thought that if Michael did the right things, somewhere - probably one to three weeks - would be the likely outcome. So this is certainly in the range we expected," Banner said. "We appreciate the commissioner's thoughtfulness and I think this is a good outcome and we look forward to having him."
Coach Andy Reid was also present at Goodell's meeting with Vick.
"He definitely provided me with useful feedback," Goodell said. "He's very open about the challenges, you know, from his own personal experiences."
Reid's two sons have been jailed on drug charges.
"He told me how Michael's doing and how he's incorporating into the team and the judgments he's making," Goodell said.
Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, who has served as a mentor to Vick at Goodell's behest, also helped the commissioner with his decision.
\The Eagles plan to use Vick in their version of the wildcat offense, and Reid has stated that Kevin Kolb remains the backup to Donovan McNabb.
Vick's familiarity with the West Coast offense has expedited his learning process with Philadelphia. He's said he's content doing whatever he can to help the team win and wants to learn from McNabb how to become a better quarterback.
While McNabb is an excellent scrambler, he prefers being a pocket passer. Vick always has been far more inclined to take off and run than stay in the pocket and find an open receiver. His career completion percentage is only 53.8 percent, and he has more career 100-yard rushing games (8) than 250-yard passing games. Vick has 71 career touchdown passes, but 52 interceptions.
Animal-rights activists in Philadelphia have opted not to protest the player, but to use Vick's signing to spotlight their work and have asked the Eagles to support them. The team has been receptive, inviting several groups to a meeting at its practice facility a few days before Vick played to discuss ways to help, including the possibility of financial support.