Michael Vick’s Redemption Road Hits Another Milestone on July 20th


Former NFL QB Michael Vick has completed his dogfighting prison sentence as of today (July 20th)

Ever since Michael Vick first started his 23-month sentence for his Federal Dogfighting case back in December 2007, the fallen-from-grace passer, his supporters, and detractors have pointed to the date July 20th.  That date happens to be today as Vick was released from federal custody ending the last part of his sentence by concluding his 2-month home confinement – will now serve three years probation.

Now that Vick, 29, will remove his ankle-monitoring device and be released from federal custody, he will be free to start the next chapter of his life.  Expectedly, given his monetary problems and the fact he is a football player, the next phase of the rehabilitation of Michael Vick will probably include trying to get back into the NFL.  Currently Vick is serving an indefinite suspension levied by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in August 2007, shortly after the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback’s admission of guilt in the notoriously salacious dogfighting case.

It is almost a foregone conclusion, that in the next few weeks that Segal and Vick’s Virginia-based attorney Larry Woodward will be petitioning NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement into the league.  Goodell has said – over and over — that he will not even look into the Vick’s case until the end of his federal confinement on July 20th, so now that day has arrived and he better be preparing for the inevitable letter. However no one is exactly sure how Goodell will react or how long he will take on ruling on Vick’s suspension.  Goodell said at the time of Vick’s suspension, “Your admitted conduct is not only illegal, but also cruel and reprehensible”.  So it will be up to Vick and his legal team to convince Goodell that he has indeed not only been rehabilitated, but that he is also ready to humble himself for all of his actions – a good start is apologizing to the NFL’s head man for lying to him at the 2007 NFL Draft about his part in the extensive dogfighting operation.  Goodell recently said in May at the Owner’s meetings of Vick’s possible reinstatement request, “Michael is going to have to demonstrate…did he learn anything from his experience?”  He 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.”   

In talking to many NFL sources, opinions have varied regarding what Goodell will do with the Vick case – continue his indefinite suspension, continue the suspension through the 2009 season, 8 games?? or 4 games??  To Vick supporters, even though Goodell has continually been a tough guy when it comes to player discipline — which could make some of the Vick indefinite suspension rumors true — he also does seem to have a “second and sometime third chance” mentality too as shown in his treatment of problem players like Adam “Pacman” Jones, Matt Jones, Tank Johnson, Chris Henry and others. My belief is when their face-to-face meeting at the league offices in New York City does happen that Vick and Segal will indeed be able to convince Goodell to finally put a timeframe (number of games) around Vick’s situation.

This is totally speculation on my part, but look for Goodell to give Vick one more chance by allowing him to return for the upcoming 2009 season after a 4 to 8 game suspension.  I also expect the Commissioner’s office to work with Vick and his advisors on specific milestones including some much-needed public service work that could also help to shorten or lengthen suspension.  Hey if Pacman Jones can get back into the league with stipulations why not give Vick a player who actually served legitimate time in prison another chance.  Vick has already been proactive by meeting with solid role models like former Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy and is working with the Humane Society of the United States on programs aimed at eradicating dogfighting among urban teens.  These moves are all a good start, but Vick must convince Goodell and most of all 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 outlined in Vick’s indictment that fueled public outrage.  But 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, as a fellow dog owner I in no way support or condone what he did, but the man has served his time and deserves a second chance.  There are arguments on both sides, but Vick does have his supporters too.  Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said upon learning of Vick’s release from prison in May, “There’s no question Michael’s paid his debt to society and merits a second chance”.

Vick — career passing numbers of 930-1730, 11505 yards, 71 TDs, 52 INTs, and a 75.7 rating in six years w/ the Falcons — has already started working with his former high school coach Tommy Reamon on his football skills and I am sure some intensive work with trainers and other football related tutors will soon follow.  The Falcons recently released Vick, so he can negotiate with any team at this time. However if Vick is reinstated by the league – and that is a big “IF” – a huge obstacle maybe finding an NFL team willing to take the PR hit for a player that has severely tarnished the NFL’s shield. There is no doubt that at one time Vick was an extraordinary talent — remember his 27-7 playoff win over the Packers at snowy Lambeau Field in 2002.

But there are still a lot of questions around NFL’s single season top rushing quarterback and the issues that he may bring with him. 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).  Other than the PR off-the-field stuff, in terms of on the field — What role will Vick 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, if given the opportunity?  My list has on it the 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); SF 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) and Jaguars (need a better backup to inconsistent starter David Garrard than Todd Bouman).  There is also the possibility of the United Football League (UFL) as an option too as the league’s Orlando franchise own’s UFL rights. 

Of course all of this speculation and conjecture is nice.   I am sure Vick will be issuing a statement or holding a press conference soon as he will finally be allowed to speak to the public after his release. But the next big hurdle for Vick, now that he has completed his sentence, is getting a meeting with Goodell.  Which is the next stop on Michael Vick’s “Redemption Road”.


 Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)