(ESPN.com) Michael Vick credits the Philadelphia Eagles with making him a better quarterback. But he was not convinced at first that Philly was the best place for him to resume his football career after nearly two years in federal prison, he told GQ Magazine for its September issue.
In an interview, the Eagles quarterback said the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills initially seemed like better options. Those teams wanted him and might have made him their starting quarterback, while the Eagles, at the time, already had an established veteran starter in Donovan McNabb and a starter-in-waiting in Kevin Kolb.
That was well before the Eagles traded McNabb and Kolb got hurt, setting the stage for Vick's remarkable comeback.
"I think I can say this now, because it's not going to hurt anybody's feelings, and it's the truth ... I didn't want to come to Philadelphia," Vick told the magazine. "Being the third-team quarterback is nothing to smile about. Cincinnati and Buffalo were better options."
But Vick was convinced, after meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell and other NFL officials, that the Eagles were the best choice. "And I commend and thank them, because they put me in the right situation," Vick told the magazine.
Vick issued a statement Thursday through the Eagles "clarifying" what he told GQ.
"I did speak with many people, but the decision to sign in Philadelphia was based on my discussions with my agent, my family and with Coach [Andy] Reid," Vick said. "And after those discussions, it became clear to me that this was the place I wanted to play and resume my NFL career. The commissioner never told me to sign or not sign with particular teams."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, in a statement, said the league did not guide Vick to the Eagles.
"Michael Vick's decision on where to play to put himself in the best position to succeed was entirely his own," Aiello said. "Commissioner Goodell obviously met and spoke to Michael and his representatives as part of his decision on whether to reinstate Michael and on what terms. But the commissioner would never steer players to or away from particular teams and did not do so in this case."
Vick told GQ he was always confident in his athletic ability to play quarterback. But it was in Philadelphia where he became a better football player, he said.
"The problem was that I wasn't given the liberty to do certain things when I was young. The reason I became a better player was because I came to Philly," he said.
In the GQ interview and in another with ESPN The Magazine, for issues scheduled to go on sale Aug. 24, Vick said he needed a change of scenery after six years with the Atlanta Falcons, the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2001 from Virginia Tech.
"I had lost confidence and was losing my love of the game. Football wasn't fun anymore," Vick told ESPN The Magazine. "If I had stayed in Atlanta, I'd be a year or two away from retiring."
"In the NFL, schemes make great quarterbacks," he added in the ESPN The Magazine interview. "I love Atlanta, but I wish now I would have been drafted by the Eagles."
It has been widely presumed that Vick's 21 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to financing a dogfighting ring altered his perspective. But Vick told GQ that prison wasn't where he decided to make changes.
"No ... I had changed my life long before then. I was just with the wrong team at the wrong time," Vick told GQ.
"I was turning the corner. I was cutting my braids off. I was changing my life. I wanted to live the life where football and family were the only things that mattered. I was ready to do it. I felt like time was running out on my career. I needed focus," he said, according to GQ.
So, would he still be an elite quarterback if he'd never went to prison or was never discovered to have been involved in dogfighting?
"Only if I had gotten traded to the Philadelphia Eagles," he told the magazine. "They never tried to change me."