For Susan And Her Family

By Jack Stallard
Updated: July 26, 2009

TEXAS — I want Michael Vick back in the National Football League.

I don’t care if he comes back as a quarterback and shatters every passing record on the books. It won’t bother me if he switches positions and becomes a Pro Bowl player at receiver, running back or defensive back or if he simply signs with some desperate team and becomes a high-paid bench warmer.

I couldn’t care less if the folks from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protest at every venue Vick’s new team is scheduled to visit, and I won’t lose any sleep if every pit bull owner in the United States purchases season tickets for the team Vick signs with and once again makes his jersey the biggest seller in the NFL.

I want Vick back in the NFL, but probably not as much as Bill and Michael Gutweiler do.

You see, if Vick isn’t allowed back in the NFL, the league is telling Bill and Michael Gutweiler that the life of Susan Gutweiler — Bill’s wife and Michael’s mother — was less meaningful than a pack of dogs.

11 years ago, Susan Gutweiler was driving in downtown St. Louis when a car driven by a drunk and speeding Leonard Little ran a stoplight. Little’s Lincoln Navigator SUV broadsided Gutweiler’s vehicle, and 12 hours later Bill Gutweiler was a widower and Michael Gutweiler — who was 10 at the time — lost his mother.

Little, a football player for the St. Louis Rams, was leaving a birthday party that night back in 1998. When tested, his blood alcohol level exceeded the statutory level of intoxication in the state of Missouri.

Little later copped a plea to involuntary manslaughter. He was given a 90-day jail sentence, four years probation, 1,000 hours of community service and the NFL suspended him for eight games — half of the 1999 season.

In 2002, Little signed a five-year, $17.5 million deal with the Rams. Two years later, he was again arrested for drunk driving and speeding. He was acquitted of driving while intoxicated, but was convicted only of the misdemeanor speeding charge.

If you want to, you can still see Little terrorizing NFL quarterbacks and drawing huge paychecks on Sundays this season … which is exactly why Vick must to be allowed to play again in the NFL.

In 2007, Vick was identified as the key figure in an extensive unlawful interstate dogfighting ring. What happened to those dogs during what is believed to be a five-year period is repulsive, and it cost Vick dearly.

Vick was suspended by the NFL and sentenced to serve a 23-month prison term. He lost his NFL salary and his endorsements and has filed for bankruptcy.

He was released from prison May 20, and is now done with the house arrest portion of his sentence. The fate of his NFL career is in the hands of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who makes Wyatt Earp look like Mayberry’s Andy Taylor when dispensing justice to those who can’t seem to follow the rules.

The commissioner is in a no-win situation regardless of the call he makes. PETA will jump him like a pit bull on a three-legged cat if he reinstates Vick, and the NFL Players Association will whine like an underpaid agent if he doesn’t.

Just once, I’d like to see a little common sense trump what PETA or the NFLPA thinks.

Let Vick play. Tell him if he as much as leaves the cap off the toothpaste in the team hotel during a road trip he’s gone, but if a team is willing to sign him he must be let back in the league.

Because keeping Vick out of the NFL and allowing Leonard Little to keep playing would be another slap in the face to Bill and Michael Gutweiler and a sad commentary on the value the NFL places on a human life.