NFL Well Off Letting Vick Sit

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - May 27, 2009
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Michael Vick: what now?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says he will not make a decision on Michael Vick’s future until all his legal issues are resolved. That will occur July 20 when Vick completes the house-arrest portion of his 23-month sentence for running a dog-fighting business out of his Virginia home.

Goodell’s comments make sense. Even though the former Atlanta QB is a convicted felon, the league has to make sure it doesn’t violate NFL or union rules in handling the situation. Just as the Falcons must wait until his reinstatement to finally and officially wash their hands of their soon-to-be former quarterback, the league also must suffer through the delay. Unlike the Falcons whose decision has already been made, however, Goodell can use these next two months to discuss options while attempting to sift through the rhetoric in an attempt to determine whether Vick’s new-found change of heart is sincere or a carefully crafted reversal to help him achieve his goal of once again playing in the NFL.

First of all, Vick deserves the chance to restart his football career. He’ll get that chance, just not for my team. (Here I’m speaking metaphorically as if I was in control and not that I have any insight into what the Lions would do.) Talent overcomes nearly all social shortcomings, and the debate has long been underway on which teams may take a flier on Vick - so long as a team is short on conscious, and almost every one is, then he’s worth the risk.

Regardless of past on-field failures, Vick remains an amazing athlete who can be used in a variety of areas, including the NFL’s current offensive flavor of the 1930s, the single wing ... er, the wildcat.

He’ll come at a bargain price and even though as a drop back passer he won’t make anyone forget Johnny Unitas, he’s still better than half of the quarterbacks in the league.

While it is true that Vick has paid for his crimes and that by American standards he remains free to pursue any career of his choosing, the opinion of the courts matters little to the NFL. Outside of violating U.S. labor laws, the league can do just about anything it wants. Including making him sit out an additional year. While his debt to the federal government is nearly complete - minus the three years of probation that still remain as part of his sentence - Vick still must serve a punishment to the league that provided him with the financial wherewithal to fund such a gruesome business.

If Goodell should chose this route it would be perhaps the toughest suspension the league has ever handed out.

And for good reason.

Vick’s transgressions went much deeper than just purchasing dogs for combat. According to testimony, he actively took part in the beating and killing of the animals. Had he not been caught, Vick would still be abusing, fighting and killing dogs to this day. His was not a crime of passion or one sudden lapse in judgment, but a pattern of behavior that went on for years.

The keys to reinstatement has been placed at genuine remorse, lessons learned and the promise to help convince urban youths to adopt better pet care techniques. No matter how genuine or how hard Vick works to rehabilitate himself, there is no way he can satisfy these requirements before the start of NFL training camp.

Thus, any move by Goodell to reinstate Vick before the 2010 season will just come across as a weak move.

Whatever the criteria, it has to be a hell of a lot more than a simple “my bad” and a few PSAs to re-enter the world of wealth and admiration.

The Humane Society has said it is willing to work with Vick to help educate the public about the evils of dog fighting. Good for them. But before anyone begins knitting Vick a puppy love sweater in celebration of his new-found compassion and honesty, it should be remembered that Vick only admitted to involvement once the evidence became overwhelmingly against him.

Over time, Vick may very well impress everyone with his about-face, but it’s going to take time and more than just just kind words. If the NFL allows his participation this season it will do nothing more than circumvent the rehabilitation process. And that will help no one - especially not Michael Vick.

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