Michael Vick heard it all in his first road game, from supporters to animal rights activists and protesters eager to boo him. Or bark at him for that matter.
“I'm just trying to do the best I can,” Vick said afterward. “I want to help more animals than I hurt. I understand there are people who want to do that. I'm still trying to do whatever I can to be the best ambassador I can be. I'm trying to move on with my life.”
It didn't help he hardly played Sunday and his Philadelphia Eagles lost an ugly one at Oakland, 13-9. Vick played in a road game for the first time since being reinstated to the NFL following an 18-month prison sentence for his involvement in a dogfighting ring.
Outisde the Coliseum, Charles Wright caught plenty of flak for wearing an old-school Vick Falcons jersey.
Wright didn't care. He's a longtime Vick fan and wanted to show his support for the quarterback.
There were mixed feelings toward Vick outside the stadium, where a small group of protesters held signs made by In Defense of Animals. Fans barked their support, in the stadium and out.
“It's been a little hostile,” said Wright, a sturdy 44-year-old tow truck driver from Oakland. “I'm a Michael Vick fan. I wanted to get the original jersey and sport that. It's like this: Sooner or later you're going to have to forgive the guy anyway. You may as well get it out of your system.”
Wright had his supporters, too. One man walked by, saw the black No. 7 jersey and said “Michael Vick!” and pumped his fist.
Vick came out to the field for his regular warmup, but had already gone inside when an airplane began circling with a banner reading, “Dog Fighter Go Home!” sponsored by Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pitbulls.
The group calling itself BAD RAP said it extended the invitation through the Eagles to Vick last week to view his former dogs that were part of the dog fighting operation at Bad Newz Kennels in southeastern Virginia. Vick declined.
“It was a little tougher,” Vick said of the environment. “It is what it is. I've gotta keep on pushing.”
Some fans barked like dogs in the stands. Jeff Blagg, a 42-year-old resident of nearby Martinez, barked around outside.
“I'm a dog owner,” Blagg said. “I don't like people who abuse animals and get away with it. He got back too soon. It bothers me he's in the NFL.”
One sign read, “NFL Please Add Dogfighting to your code of conduct.”
Passers-by had their opinions of the protesters.
“Come on, the dude paid his debt to society,” one man hollered.
“I don't think he should be a role model for children,” said 38-year-old Megan Collison, who traveled four hours from Albion on California's North coast to protest Vick. “I think a lot of people look up to NFL players. I feel very strongly. I have a pit bull at home and she was abused. Her ribs stick out from being kicked in.”
Collison said she rescued her dog Shatzi, which means “Sweetheart,” from Southern California. The dog wasn't involved in fighting. Collison held a sign reading “VICK: WE HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN” and argued with Raiders fan Gary Marshall, who called Vick's crime mild compared to other offenses he considers far worse.
“I think child molesters should go to jail for life,” Marshall said.
Vick visited with a few people he knew on the sidelines but declined to sign autographs when making his way inside before the game.