PHILADELPHIA – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is eligible to play beginning in the third game of the regular season.
Goodell met with Vick for 45 minutes Thursday before announcing his decision. Vick, recently signed by the Eagles, played in last week's exhibition game and was expected to play against the New York Jets on Thursday night.
Previously, Goodell said he would consider Vick for full reinstatement by no later than Week 6.
Vick was released from federal custody July 20 after serving 18 months of a 23-month sentence for his role in running a dogfighting ring.
"I think he's making real progress," Goodell said. "I think he has a better feel for the challenges ahead of him."
ESPN.com first reported the Goodell-Vick meeting.
The Eagles told The Associated Press that the commissioner met with Vick at the team hotel near the Newark airport.
A three-time Pro Bowl pick during six seasons with the Atlanta 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.
The Eagles plan to use Vick in their version of the wildcat offense, and coach Andy 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 that he's content doing whatever he can to help the team win and wants to learn from McNabb how to become a better QB.
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 (among the lowest for a starting NFL quarterback. Vick has 71 career touchdown passes, but 52 interceptions.
The Eagles were heavily criticized by animal rights activists for signing Vick and dozens of protesters voiced their outrage outside the team's practice facility the day after he signed.
But the explosive debate that consumed the city upon Vick's arrival played out on a much smaller and subdued scale when Vick made his Eagles debut last Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
An animal welfare event was held across town, while the local NAACP's planned march outside the stadium to support Vick did not materialize, although about a dozen members set up a table with banners supporting him.
Local animal rights activists have opted not to protest the player, but to use Vick's arrival in Philadelphia to spotlight their work and have asked the Eagles to support them. The team has been receptive, inviting several groups to a meeting at their practice facility a few days before Vick played to discuss ways to help, including the possibility of financial support.
Some activists said at the meeting that the team had an obligation to get involved in fighting animal cruelty after signing Vick, who admitted during his criminal case to torturing to death dogs that underperformed in fights.
Eagles spokeswoman Pamela Browner-Crawley called the conversation a tough but constructive beginning.
She says the team has an obligation to the community and work with kids particularly, to discourage them from engaging in dog fighting or any animal abuse.
Dogfighting remains a serious problem in Philadelphia. The Sunday before Vick returned to the field, police broke up a dogfighting ring and rescued several injured pit bulls.