PHILADELPHIA—Michael Vick's pregame pep talk Sunday, in which he recounted the events of a brutal 2004 dogfight between his pit bull terrier Zebro and rival pit bull Maniac, failed to inspire his teammates in any way whatsoever, Eagles team sources reported.
Vick, who was playing in his first NFL game since serving an 18-month prison sentence, called the 10-minute story "really motivational," and reportedly failed to understand why his graphic recounting of how Zebro ripped out Maniac's larynx caused teammates to stagger out of the player tunnel and onto Lincoln Financial Field with their heads hanging.
"I don't know what their problem is, because that story pumps me up every time," Vick said during a postgame press conference. "It's a classic underdog story: On one side of the dogfighting pit you had Maniac, who was a beast, and on my end you had Zebro, who was pretty good, but not great. Yet we had trained him hard. We strengthened his hind legs by forcing him to constantly jump at a teasing stick; we emotionally tortured him so that he would attack everything in sight; and from the time he was a little puppy, we toughened him up by beating him with a metal baton."
"I told my teammates that the stakes were high, because if Zebro had lost, I would have either electrocuted him, drowned him, or slammed his body to the ground until he was dead," Vick added. "How is that not inspiring?"
According to Eagles players, Vick's voice increased in intensity at key moments throughout the pep talk, and he was at his most impassioned when he spoke of how Zebro continued to fight despite the fact that numerous chunks of flesh had been ripped from his body.
Vick also sought to motivate his team by comparing the Eagles' weekly preparation to Zebro's, saying that just as Vick had forced his pit bull to drag a tire with his mouth for hours on end to strengthen his jaw, the Eagles defense had put in the training necessary to stop quarterback Matt Cassel.
Sources confirmed that by the end of the locker room speech, the Eagles were so demoralized they could barely muster the will to put their hands into the team circle for a group cheer.
"I don't know why he told us those things," said Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb, visibly disturbed as he told reporters that Vick looked proud when he explained how Zebro nearly lost consciousness several times throughout the fight. "I spent the first half of the game trying to get all that imagery out of my head: the bloody pit, the cigar smoke, grown men shouting as dogs ripped each other to shreds. It was so messed up that it didn't even sound real."
"They turned those dogs into monsters and made them kill each other for their own sick enjoyment," Kolb added. "For their own fucking enjoyment."
Running back LeSean McCoy echoed Kolb, saying that at no time during the game did he draw on the thought of Zebro losing half his ear as a source of inspiration.
"Before we went out on the field, [Vick] told us how the dogs went at each other's throats one last time, and when Zebro broke free, his snout and face were completely covered in blood," McCoy explained. "That's when—and I'll never forget this for the rest of my life—Mike looked at us, smiled, and said, 'But it wasn't Zebro's blood. It was Maniac's. Now let's go out there and have some fun!'"
"Jesus Christ," McCoy added.
Teammates said Vick continued to reference the story throughout the game as a motivational tool, at one point shouting, "Remember Zebro!" when the team faced a difficult third-down situation.
In addition, as Vick finally entered the game to a loud ovation, his teammates said they were further disturbed when Vick compared them to his dogfighting crew, the "Bad Newz Kennels." Vick said the group would do anything for each other, especially when it came to the mass execution of dogs who failed to win the multimillionaire $1,000 in illegal prize money.
Vick then broke the huddle by loudly barking three times.
"The only reason the Chiefs scored in the second half was because I was still thinking about what Mike said during halftime about 'trunking,'" said linebacker Omar Gaither, referring to the practice of putting two pit bulls in a car trunk, closing the door, and allowing them to fight for 15 minutes until one is dead. "Why is this freak on my team? Why are people cheering for him? Seriously, answer my questions. Why?"