Mike’s Road To Redemption

By Lloyd Vance, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: July 30, 2009

Michael Vick PHILADELPHIA (BASN) — After enough speculation to fill the Atlantic Ocean, we finally learned that indeed suspended free agent quarterback Michael Vick was reinstated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday.

Goodell notified Vick via of an extensive letter that he has been reinstated to the NFL on a conditional basis and will be considered for full reinstatement by Week 6 (October 18-19) of the NFL’s regular season based on following an NFL mandated transition plan.

As everyone knows unless you have been under a rock for a couple of years, Vick had been suspended indefinitely since August of 2007. Goodell handed the very still penalty at the time due to the heinous acts documented in Vick’s guilty plea to federal criminal charges relating to his involvement in an interstate dog fighting enterprise.

The 29-year old quarterback was recently released from federal but is still serving three years of probation.

In reviewing the matter, Commissioner Goodell seemed to consult everyone from Vick himself to his representatives and family to former players and league representatives.

As reported earlier the two had a positive meeting on July 22, where they discussed the disgraced quarterback’s possible reinstatement and allowed Vick to apologize and plead his case.

The conditions of the reinstatement/transition plan are as follows:

  • Vick, if he is able to find a team to sign him, may participate without delay in preseason practices, workouts, meetings, and he may play in his club’s final two preseason games.
  • Once the NFL regular season begins, Vick may participate in all team activities other than games, subject to specific guidelines developed by the NFL Player Personnel Department.
  • Former Super Bowl-winning head coach Tony Dungy has agreed to continue his work with Michael as an advisor and mentor.
  • Commissioner Goodell will periodically evaluate Michael’s progress with Dungy, Vick’s advisor, and probation officer under this transitional step approach and consider full reinstatement for play in regular-season games by Week 6.
  • Goodell specifically wrote: “My decision (by Week 6) will be based on reports from outside professionals, your probation officer, and others charged with supervising your activities, the quality of your work outside football, the absence of any further adverse involvement in law enforcement, and other concrete actions that you take that are consistent with your representations to me.”

Commissioner Goodell wrote: “This step-by-step approach is not meant to be a further punishment and should not be viewed as such. Instead, it is intended to maximize the prospect that you can successfully resume your career and your life.”

“I believe that a transitional approach with a strong network of support will give you the best opportunity to manage effectively the various issues and pressures that you will inevitably face in the coming weeks and months and earn your full reinstatement.”

You have to tip your cap to Goodell for heeding the words of respected people like NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith, Tony Dungy, and others to give Vick another chance. Dungy is a man of character, who is respected by everyone associated with the league, so hopefully he will continue to help get Vick back on the right track.

The approach Goodell outlined seems similar to the one the league used during Pacman Jones’ efforts in trying to regain entry into the NFL after missing the entire 2007 season due to suspension.

I like that Goodell stressed more about “opportunity” and the fact that planning the NFL is a privilege than purely focusing on punishment in reinstating Vick. Goodell wrote in the letter, “In deciding whether to reinstate a player, I have stressed my belief that playing in the NFL is a privilege. It is not an entitlement.”

“Everyone fortunate enough to be part of the league is held to a standard of conduct higher than that generally expected in society and is correspondingly accountable when that standard of conduct is not met.”

“I have also endorsed an approach under which players who have been suspended for a significant amount of time, as you have been, may through a series of steps demonstrate that they have addressed their prior problems, that they can make good decisions, and that they conduct themselves in a way that is lawful, responsible, and consistent with NFL values.”

Goodell concluded the letter by writing, “Needless to say, your margin for error is extremely limited. I urge you to take full advantage of the resources available to support you and to dedicate yourself to rebuilding your life and your career. If you do this, the NFL will support you.”

After the Commissioner’s announcement, Vick seemed appreciative and understanding of the conditions of his second opportunity to play in the NFL. Vick released a statement via agent Joel Segal:

    “I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to Commissioner Roger Goodell for allowing me to be readmitted to the National Football League. I fully understand that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, not a right, and I am fully thankful for that opportunity I have been given. As you can imagine, the last two years have given me the time to reevaluate my life, mature as an individual, and fully understand the terrible mistakes I made in the past and what type of life I must lead moving forward. Again, I would like to thank Commissioner Goodell for the chance to return to the game I love and the opportunity to become an example of positive change. Finally, I want to sincerely thank Coach Dungy for being in my corner, and I look forward to him being a mentor for me.”

As someone, who has been writing about this over two-year ordeal since we first learned about it back before 2007 NFL Draft, I think both sides came to an amicable decision.

Everyone knew that Goodell could not let Vick just walk back in the NFL, but in doing his due diligence the Commissioner setup a thorough step-by-step approach for the former three-time Pro Bowl quarterback to get back his career.

But while I respect and understand the Commissioner’s decision, which clearly seems like the NFL covering their backside, Vick probably has endured more than any disciplined NFL player in the past. Sure his acts were heinous and reprehensible, but he did serve 23 months in federal custody and was suspended the entire time.

Too often there have been other NFL player jurisprudence cases that have left everyone including some victims wondering how a particular punishment didn’t fit the crime while the player was right back on the field before we knew it – See Rams DE Leonard Little’s 1998 case drunk driving manslaughter case that left a Missouri woman dead.

Whether you agree with Goodell’s decision or not, when it comes to persecuting Michael Vick, “Enough is Enough”. Goodell got outside input and presided over a 4½ hour hearing last week plus had two one-on-one sessions with Vick.

Any questions around the former Falcons quarterback’s sincerity were answered with Goodell saying, “I believe he is sincere in his remorse”. The Commissioner has spoken and now Vick’s life can move on with an eye towards resuming his career. We finally have some light at the end of the tunnel of one of American sports history’s greatest falls from grace.

Now it is time to turn the page to the next chapter of the “Michael Vick Experience” and just maybe the still young quarterback will surprise us once again. Vick will now have until mid October to complete his growing To-Do list of finding a team that is willing to sign him, continuing to meet with Dungy and his probation officer, getting in shape while working with Tom Shaw, and most of all staying out of trouble.

In terms of a team signing Vick, that may take a little while too. Let’s face it – even though there will always be a head coach that wants to win bad enough that bringing in Michael Vick could help – in the NFL wins trump all.

But the people over head coaches namely a team’s owner and front-office types will have the final “say” on whether to bring Vick into the fold. Any team bringing in the disposed passer will have to go out into their community to gauge the level of tolerance for Vick.

Trust me the PETA people will be out in droves and you have to wonder if any team endorsers will jump ship, which could be huge in this topsy-turvy economy. In the end, I still see a team taking a chance on Vick and allowing his play on the field to determine how far he falls in the hearts of fans.

The USA Today Huddle blog put out a great piece going through the potential landing spots within the league’s 32 franchises for the free agent quarterback.

My list has on it:

— St. Louis Rams (GM Bill Devaney has former ties to Vick from their Falcons days and current starting quarterback Marc Bulger has not been playing at a Pro Bowl level lately).

— Oakland Raiders (Owner Al Davis, a maverick himself, believes in 2nd chances); Dallas Cowboys (Owner Jerry Jones seems to be running the NFL’s version of a reform school lately and the charismatic leader of the Cowboys also needs better “Romo Insurance” than current back-up Jon Kitna).

— San Francisco 49ers (Head Coach Mike Singletary and Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye believe in second chances plus starter Shaun Hill’s name is not written in stone), Patriots (If Kraft will let him, Belichick will do anything to “win”).

— Jacksonville Jaguars (need a better backup to inconsistent starter David Garrard than Todd Bouman).

Vick’s final fail-safe could be United Football League (UFL) as the league’s Orlando franchise own his UFL rights and the new league will run from September to late November.