Vick Pushes For An Early Return

By Lloyd Vance
Updated: November 26, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — Michael Vick cleared another hurdle in his long journey back to the NFL on Tuesday, as he appeared in a Surry County (Va.) Circuit courtroom to enter a guilty plea to his state dogfighting charge.

Vick entered a guilty plea to two felony counts in a deal with prosecutors that calls for a suspended sentence and probation. The plea deal should resolve his last pending criminal charges with his attorneys hope that Vick will be eligible for early release from prison and into a halfway house designed to ease his return to society.

With this last hurdle apparently cleared, the question is not “if”, but “when” will Vick get his opportunity to return to the NFL. According to a USA Today story, there is still interest around the NFL for the former Falcons mercurial superstar quarterback that upon completion of his time, some team will take a chance on Vick.

But the most interesting thing is which of the NFL’s 32 franchises will take the public relations hit from dog loving fans aligned with organizations like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) — planned to protest Vick’s court appearance — to bring in the former star who is Persona non grata in some circles.

According to the story at least half-dozen of the NFL teams contacted, speaking on anonymity due to tampering, would be interested in taking a look at the former 3-time Pro Bowl player.

The only team that should be totally ruled out is the Atlanta Falcons, who still hold Vick’s rights as they are trying to recoup monies from Vick’s $130 million, 10-year deal signed in December 2004.

Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank made it abundantly clear that the Falcons have moved on by saying, “Not only have we turned the page, we’ve turned the chapter and closed the book.”

Even if the Falcons are not ready to make the commitment to Vick returning to the NFL, the former star seems to be getting encouragement from some other NFL players including Vick’s former teammate Alge Crumpler.

Vick’s former security blanket receiver (now with the Tennessee Titans) said of his friend’s chances of returning to the NFL, “Somebody’s got to give him an opportunity. I’ve never thought Michael was a bad person. I’ve never thought he was a detriment to any team. … He just made a stupid mistake.”

However the biggest person that the 28-year old Vick will need to convince is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. But the chances for Vick’s reinstatement seem to be looking better as Goodell recently has given second and third chances to players like Cowboys bad boy defensive back Adam “Pacman” Jones.

Goodell recently said of the Vick situation, “The good news is I don’t have to make that decision right now, He hasn’t finished serving his time, and the legal process isn’t completed, and I said he was suspended until that process was completed.”

“And at that point I will make a decision on his ability to play in the NFL.”

I fully expect upon his release (scheduled for July of 2009), that Goodell will summon Vick to New York to plead his case – already seen this with Jones, Vikings DE Jared Allen (late hits on quarterbacks), the StarCaps players, and others.

There is no doubt that Goodell will need to look into Vick’s eyes to see if he truly is a changed man. On the anticipated meeting Goodell said, “I’ll put it this way: Has he rehabilitated himself sufficiently? Does he understand the consequences of his actions?”

“What would be the impact on the NFL? All of those things.”

Of course all this speculation is conjecture, as Vick has to continue rehabilitating himself in hopes of getting another chance come July 2009. But as stated in his recent bankruptcy paperwork “Michael Vick fully intends to return to the NFL and earn a living”.

To me if Vick continues moving forward in his life and he still has the talent to perform at an NFL caliber level then “YES” the 2001 No. 1 overall pick deserves to be back in the NFL.

There have been too many precedents of athletes getting two, three, or even four chances to not give Vick the opportunity at redemption.