PHILADELPHIA - The road back will never be completely clear for Michael Vick.There's plenty of justice in that.Little more than two years have elapsed since he plead guilty to being the ringleader of a dogfighting operation where extreme cruelty was the stock in trade. There's no defending what he did then and there's no chance it will ever be forgotten.That chapter of his life remains part of nearly every story involving his name and it will be somewhere in the opening paragraph of his obit. What remains to be seen is whether it will take him that long to be forgiven.Earlier this week, his Philadelphia Eagles teammates unanimously voted Vick to receive the team's Ed Block Courage Award. Every NFL team hands out a similar award every year, deciding which player inside a locker room exemplifies "commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage."But because the Eagles settled on Vick, what should have been little more than a small signpost on his way back became yet another fork in the road.The local papers were not alone in pointing out the Eagles had plenty of other deserving candidates to choose from — guys who were longshots just to make the NFL, or whose comebacks they judged more inspiring because the starting point was injury and not recklessness. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals predictably piled on, saying the decision by Vick's teammates was "not appropriate and does not mark a joyous moment in NFL history."Fair enough. And to be sure, both Vick himself and the teammates who backed him handed the critics plenty of material."I've overcome a lot, more than probably one single individual can handle or bear," Vick began. "You ask certain people to walk through my shoes, they probably couldn't do. Probably 95 percent of the people in this world, because nobody had to endure what I've been through, situations I've been put in, situations I put myself in and decisions I have made, whether they have been good or bad."We're not going to parse the words beyond suggesting they sound angry and devoid of some perspective. He shouldn't need reminding that people are dealing with worse and unlike Vick, because of things that were beyond their control. And as we said, his teammates didn't do a much better job of explaining themselves.Eagles coach Andy Reid conceded, "I'm not sure you can explain it, unless you've kind of gone through it here with him."Donovan McNabb, who's known Vick since he served as his host during a recruiting visit to Syracuse more than a decade ago, sounded more callous still."I don't care what people say on the outside," McNabb said. "It was something voted on by his peers."That's all it is. It's also precisely the point.Only Vick will ever know whether his heart is still as cold as those chilling episodes from his past proved. The rest of us, from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to Vick's fiercest haters, can only make judgments based on what he says and does.And if the people who spend more time around Vick than anyone besides his real family say that's good enough for them — so far — who's to say otherwise? After all, the Eagles have been carrying him for most of this season, and not the other way around.He played little and produced even less until the start of this month, when Vick made small, but significant contributions to wins in his return to Atlanta and against the New York Giants. A bruised thigh kept him out of last weekend's games, but there's a feeling both inside and outside the organization that if Vick ever gets good enough to reclaim a starting job, it almost certainly will be somewhere other than Philadelphia.Viewed by that light, all the vote proved is that right here, right now, the guys who suit up alongside Vick are hoping that the rest of the journey goes as well as the first, few tentative steps. That doesn't seem like too much to ask.