Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Michael Vick Set to be Released from Jail

Michael Vick had it all. He was one of the NFL's brightest stars and most marketable players. He had just signed a multi-year contract worth about $130 million and was at the peak of what seemed to be a limitless career. Vick was supposed to end his career with the team that drafted him #1 overall in 2001 and go down as the greatest player in the history of the Atlanta Falcons franchise. Everything was bright indeed. But then came the dog-fighting scandal. Vick misled federal investigators and was sentenced to 23 months in prison. Vick and the Falcons were devastated by this incident and both of their futures were in limbo. Oh, and Vick just happened to be my favorite player on my favorite team. So my NFL fandom was also in limbo. But I digress...back to the story.

In two seasons without Vick, the Falcons saw themselves hit rock bottom, finishing 3-13 in 2007. That off-season Atlanta brought in a new GM in Thomas Dimitroff, a new head coach in Mike Smith, signed free agent RB Michael Turner and drafted QB Matt Ryan. These moves allowed the Falcons to start over and move towards putting their franchise back together. The result was a very successful 2008 season as Atlanta finished 11-5 and earned a playoff berth. The Falcons appear to have picked themselves up from this mess and have their future in place under this new regime. But what about Michael Vick? That will ultimately be determined by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The first question is: Will Goodell even allow Vick to be re-instated to the league? The commissioner has stated before that he felt "betrayed" by Michael Vick, who had always denied the dog-fighting allegations and insisted to everyone that he was innocent of such charges. Recently, Goodell said that Vick would have to show that he was "truly remorseful" for his actions before deciding on his NFL future. You know Goodell is tired of all the negative publicity that surrounds players with legal troubles. In the end though, I believe that Mr. Goodell will arrive at the conclusion that all players deserve a second chance. I expect him to be hard on Michael Vick and institute some kind of "zero tolerance" policy with him.

Once that is settled, the only question remaining is: Which team will give Vick his second chance? Falcons owner Arthur Blank has said that he will support Vick's efforts for re-instatement, but made it clear that his future will have to be somewhere besides Atlanta. Any team that signs Vick will face PR backlash, but the bottom line is winning games. Vick is a proven winner and will receive several phone calls from teams that are at the very least interested, if not serious, about signing him. The 49ers are rumored to have been interested, you know the Cowboys and Raiders are always candidates to land a controversial figure, and teams like the Vikings and Rams could use a serviceable QB (or two).

We'll see what happens. I wish you well Michael, I hope you haven't given up. I know you are truly sorry for what happened and will get your life back in order. I'm as big a Matt Ryan fan as anyone, but the Michael Vick experience will always have a special place in Falcons lore. Good luck to you man.

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