The long road back to the NFL for QB Michael Vick took a huge step on May 20th as he left Leavenworth Prison for Home Confinement in Hampton, VA
May 20, 2009
(Philadelphia, Pa) --- The long road back to the NFL for suspended quarterback Michael Vick took another step early in the morning of May 20th as the disgraced star was released from prison in Leavenworth, Kansas to begin two months of home confinement in Hampton, Virginia. The mercurial quarterback this time ducked a horde of waiting media like an oncoming defensive lineman as he exited out a side door to a waiting group of family and friends including his fiancé Kijafa Frink. Vick, who turns 29 on June 26th, had served 19 months in Leavenworth for financing a dogfighting ring –- originally sentenced to 23 months. He will be released from his home confinement on July 20th then he will serve will serve three years of probation.
Larry Woodward, Vick's Virginia-based attorney, said of the release of the former superstar turned Persona-Non Grata, "It's a happy day for him to be starting this part of the process and he looks forward to meeting the challenges he has to meet." We all know that Vick wants to be back in football and there have even been rumors that he will be working out with a trainer and quarterbacks coach during his home confinement. But Woodward said his first priority "is spending time with his children and his loved ones." Vick, once the NFL's highest-paid player with a $130 million, 10-year deal signed in December 2004, will now make $10-an-hour working for a construction company and will have to report to a parole office in Norfolk, Virginia plus for he will need approval from his probation officer if he intends to leave his five-bedroom Hampton residence. I am sure Vick will remain quiet for the next two months, but It is almost a foregone conclusion, that given Vick’s lengthy monetary problems since his fall from grace in early 2007 that the former 2001 NFL first overall pick will be petitioning NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement into the league -- Vick was suspended indefinitely in August 2007. Goodell has said that he will not even look into the Vick’s case until the end of his federal confinement on July 20th. But Goodell did recently define the "remorse" he's seeking from Michael Vick as he considers reinstating him from suspension. Goodell said, "Michael is going to have to demonstrate...did he learn anything from his experience?” Goode added, “Does he regret what happened? Does he feel he’s going to be a positive influence going forward?…those are the questions I would like to (ask) when I sit with him." My belief is when their face-to-face meeting at the league offices in New York City does happen that Vick and his agent Joel Segal better have a contrition filled apology and a future plan ready if the quarterback ever wants to put on an NFL uniform again. Assuredly a great first step would be for Vick to apologize to the NFL’s headman for lying to his face at the 2007 NFL Draft when asked about his part in the extensive dogfighting operation.
The rehabilitation of Michael Vick will be a continuing process and the humbled former three-time Pro Bowl quarterback seems to understand the levity of his actions and the long hard road he must travel. Vick recently met with NFL beloved former Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy and the stoic coach shared words of wisdom with the formerly troubled quarterback. The Humane Society of the United States also came out and said that Vick met its president recently in prison and wants to work on a program aimed at eradicating dogfighting among urban teens. These moves are all a good start, but Vick must convince the court of public opinion before anyone else. Trust me his expected meeting with Commissioner Goodell will be a cakewalk compared to convincing the many dog lovers out there who know all to well the gruesome details — dogs were hanged, drowned and electrocuted — outlined in Vick’s indictment that fueled public outrage plus brought unprecedented attention to the problem of dogfighting. However Vick does have his supporters as Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said upon learning of Vick’s release, "There's no question Michael's paid his debt to society and merits a second chance”. Blank added that Vick is taking positive steps by wanting to work with humane societies and making other changes in his life. Former on-the-field opponent linebacker Derrick Brooks, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers recently said of Vick’s situation, "Just like any other American citizen, he deserves a chance to work. I think that's first and foremost, and his employment was football”. Brooks added, "Whatever team decides to give Mike an opportunity, I think that team has to convince the commissioner's office that they have a system in place that's going to help him succeed and move past his mistakes."
Of course all of this “Michael Vick playing in the NFL” talk is purely speculative at this point as there are many hurdles to the former quarterback returning the field. Goodell must first reinstate Vick, which I do believe he will given his history of giving problem players like Adam “Pacman” Jones, Matt Jones, Tank Johnson, Chris Henry and others second and sometime third opportunities – after a positive meeting, I see Goodell handing down a four game suspension. To his credit, one hurdle that Vick has already cleared is securing his release from the Falcons. As soon Vick is reinstated by the league, the Falcons will release him and he will owe the team $6.5-$7.5 million. But the hardest obstacle I believe Vick has to clear before returning is finding an NFL team willing to take a PR hit for a player that has severely tarnished the NFL’s shield. It is going to take a very strong owner with a secure GM and head coach to make the decision to bring in the formerly convicted player. We all know the public relations mess that awaits such a team (picketing and boycotts), but there are several on the field issues too. There is no doubt that Vick was an extraordinary talent at one time (remember his 27-7 playoff win over the Packers at snowy Lambeau Field in 2002), but what role does the NFL’s single season top rushing quarterback ever play on a team (backup QB/Wildcat QB/WR), how will he affect team chemistry if he signs around training camp or into the season, and most importantly how much have his skills eroded during his two years away from the game (Vick played intramural football in prison). So where will Michael Vick land?”… My list starts with the Cowboys, Raiders, Bills, Jaguars, and Niners. But there is also Arena Football or the new-fangled UFL to knock off some rust.
To all of the people that believe Michael Vick has committed acts that are truly unforgivable, I say enough already with persecuting this man. Let me make this abundantly clear, I in no way support or condone what he did, but the man has served his time and deserves a second chance. It maybe an eye opener to some stone throwing fans that are convinced the NFL should be closed a book to such a despised person, but each Sunday NFL fans cheer for players that have committed crimes from domestic violence to weapons charges – try checking the roster of your favorite team and for those needing additional help there is a book called Pro and Cons. At the very least Vick is one of the few players who actually served legitimate time in prison for his acts so give the man a chance to redeem himself.
Stay tuned as this melodrama is only going to get juicier as we head towards the end of July.
--- Submitted by Lloyd Vance