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Bet on the NFL When you’re a major player in the NFL, playing a good game of ball isn’t the only way to make the big bucks. Just ask Michael Vick, who is cashing in on jersey sales ever since his stint in jail for dogfighting crimes. Despite his imprisonment for dogfighting crimes, Vick's jersey sales have headed north all season at NFLShop.com maybe it’s because he's thrown for 11 TDs with no interceptions and led the 7-3 Eagles to first place in the NFC East. Or maybe it’s because he has created a bad-ass image for himself, making his name a mark of the tough for those who sport his jersey.

When NFL training camps opened in July, Vick's jersey was not even among the Top 100 player jersey sold at the NFL's online store, says the NFL's Joanna Hunter. Now, he's on pace to crack the Top 25 most popular player jerseys by the end of November, she says.

A Vick men's replica jersey from Reebok will run you $79.99 at the NFL web site. Vick's jersey is the 6th-most searched-for jersey (Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints is No. 1).

In the City of Brotherly Love, Vick's jersey sales really took off after he led the Eagles to victory over Peyton Manning's Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 7. But his jersey sales still trail behind those of teammates such as DeSean Jackson, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. Some fans may be holding off on buying Vick jerseys due to concern he'll play for another team next season.

Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos ranked No. 1 in overall NFL player jersey sales from April 1-October 31, according to Hunter. Wes Welker of the New England Patriots ranked No. 25. When Michael Vick goes to his locker, three words stare him in the face: Walk Your Talk. Vick is doing exactly that these days with the Philadelphia Eagles. He has revived his career and is taking steps to rebuild his image.

Vick walks the talk by showing up early at the team's practice facility, studying hard and putting in the long hours that make quarterbacks successful. Vick walks the talk by staying humble, even though he's putting up impressive numbers and playing like an MVP candidate - and even better than the guy who once had a $130-million contract with the Atlanta Falcons that was the richest deal in NFL history.

Vick walks the talk by spending time on his off days working with the Humane Society of the United States and speaking to school and community groups about the cruelty of dogfighting. Just in case he needs it, the three words on the red-and-black bumper stick taped to his locker stall are a reminder for Vick to let his actions do his talking.

Coaches have entrusted Vick to lead the team, and he's the main reason why the Eagles (7-3) are first in the NFC East and have become legitimate contenders to reach the Super Bowl. Philadelphia is 5-0 in games Vick has started and finished. Teammates respect Vick and consider him a field leader, a guy they go to for advice and look to for inspiration. In Philly, at least, Vick has won over the fans, too.

There was an outcry from animal rights groups and dog lovers when the Eagles signed Vick in August 2009, less than a month after he finished serving 18 months in prison and two months of home confinement for his role in a dogfighting ring. And more than a few eyebrows were raised this summer, after a shooting occurred at Vick's birthday party.

But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell imposed no disciplinary action, and has since praised the quarterback for turning his life around. Fans, meanwhile, gave Vick a rousing ovation when he was introduced at the Linc before a 27-17 win over the New York Giants last Sunday.  Vick takes it all in stride. He's been a hero before and lost everything. Those around him on a daily basis know he appreciates his second chance and doesn't take anything for granted.

They used to call Vick "Superman'' when he played with the Falcons. He went to three Pro Bowls and led Atlanta to one NFC championship game - a loss to Donovan McNabb and the Eagles in January 2005. But Vick wasn't a complete quarterback back then. He was a dynamic player who relied on incredible talent to make big plays with his strong arm and lightning-quick speed.

When Vick arrived in Philadelphia, he had a career completion percentage of just 53.8 percent.

He had thrown 71 touchdown passes, but also 52 interceptions. Vick had more career 100-yard rushing games (8) than 250-yard passing games (6) in Atlanta. He already has thrown for 250 yards four times in seven games this year.

The difference in Vick's game now is patience in the pocket. He buys time by scrambling and finds open receivers rather than running at the first sign of trouble. He's become more accurate: he has a 62.8 percent completion percentage. He protects the ball: zero interceptions and only one lost fumble. Vick leads the NFL with a 108.7 passer rating and has 1,608 yards passing and 11 touchdowns. He's also run for 375 yards and five scores.

Eagles coach Andy Reid credits Vick's success to his dedication and work ethic. Vick admits he didn't spend much time honing his skills when he played for the Falcons. Vick credits Reid, Mornhinweg, quarterbacks coach James Urban and others on the staff for helping him take his game to a higher level.

Vick had four head coaches and several coordinators during his time in Atlanta. He clearly benefited from watching McNabb run Philadelphia's offense last year and from working with Reid and Mornhinweg, who have groomed many top QBs.

The coaches made some adjustments to Vick's throwing platform, so he has better balance and his feet are in a proper position when he throws. Now Vick is drawing comparisons to Hall of Famer Steve Young.  Young won a Super Bowl with San Francisco. Thanks to Vick, the Eagles have a chance to win one in a season that began without much promise.

 

 

 

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