Monday, July 27, 2009

Vick's back?

Michael Vick is not Adolph Hitler. I think that most people understand this, but nevertheless there are those who insist that he got off light and does not deserve to return to the NFL.

Whether or not he deserves to return to the NFL will be determined by several things, one is his playing ability. Vick has been out of football for two years. He hasn’t had access to the same athletic training and nutrition he had when he was chucking footballs for the Falcons. Vick’s going to have to earn a spot on a team if he wants to make a living as a football player.

He also has to find a team. That’s not going to be easy. Vick wasn’t exactly a great quarterback when he left. He was a remarkable athlete who resented the very appropriate criticism people in the know expressed regarding his abilities. His athleticism was never questioned but a lot of people wondered if he was a liability as a signal caller. Rather than honing his skills to dispel doubts, Vick pouted. The Falcons enjoyed some success without Vick which has a lot of people think that Vick might have been overrated. That’s a touch call because a lot has changed in Atlanta besides Vick’s departure. Still, Vick wasn’t exactly a joy to coach.

In addition to the dog fighting ring Vick was involved in, he also had some issues regarding substance abuse. A big part of the reason Vick didn’t get any leniency when he was sentenced is because he tested positive for marijuana while he was out on bond. He also had the airport security problem when his stash bottle was confiscated. Initial reports that the secret compartment smelled like pot were denied but the whole ordeal seemed like a cover up. A few hundred grand donated to the FOP can make minor charges go way. Especially when you’re dealing with residue and not the real deal

So Vick has baggage and teams aren’t going to want to check it. Did a year and a half of time behind bars help Vick put things in perspective? Did he check his massive ego? Is he willing to shut up and listen to his coaches? The NFL reinstated him but Vick is going to have to pass a lot of scrutiny if he wants to play. Teams are going to poke and prod him, looking for any sign of a public relations disaster. And if he does land a contract, a very modest contract by his standards, he will be on the shortest of leashes. One tantrum, public or private, and Vick will be cut.

It would probably be better for him to play in Canada. The CFL is the sort of league that makes guys like Vick look really good. He could win a Grey Cup or two and maybe set a few records. More importantly Vick would get more money. The CFL isn’t under the same microscope that the NFL is. Canadian fans aren’t going to be as passionate about Vick’s past. They’ll give him a second chance and a little more room to breathe.

Most fans in the US aren’t going to forgive him. For one thing, he’s black. Our society has a much harder time cutting black guys slack. Roger Clemen’s is a big a jerk as Barry Bonds and cheated just as much but baseball fans are more supportive of Roger. I’m not saying that they should give Barry a pass, the man is a jerk and should be reviled by all. The thing I’m saying is the Roger Clemens should be held in the same esteem.

Vick’s cut from the same cloth as both of those guys. He’s a gifted athlete who was spoiled because of his physical prowess. He grew up in the projects but Vick got breaks other kids didn’t because he could win games. He was never held accountable. Neither was his brother, Marcus, who eventually got in so much trouble Virginia Tech finally had to draw the line and cut him.

The NFL should probably draft a policy forbidding convicted felons from playing. I’m all for people getting second chances after they’ve paid their proverbial debts to society but the NFL is in the business of public relations. They don’t have to give second chances. Society at large does, but the NFL is different and should do a better job of insulating itself from troublemakers.

Vick also didn’t get off easy. They pretty much threw the book at him, but because our criminal justice system doesn’t see animal cruelty as that big a deal, the sentence seemed a little light. I’m not going to blame Vick for that. If we want tougher sentences for animal cruelty we need to write tougher laws. Vick’s just a guy who broke the law. He was punished in accordance with it. I think he deserves a chance to move on.

Because the NFL doesn’t have a no felony policy, they have no reason not to reinstate him. Some through Roger Goodell would harbor a grudge because Vick lied to him when the dog fighting allegations first hit the press, but who does Goodell think he is? He’s not Vick’s attorney or his priest. If Vick had been honest with Goodell Goodell could have been compelled to testify against him at trial. Goodell was an idiot for even asking Vick about the pending criminal investigation. He’s equally stupid for meeting with Ben Roethlisberger after the Steelers’ QB was accused of sexual assault via a civil action. Ben can’t answer Goodell’s questions honestly.

So Goodell did the right thing and reinstated Vick. He’s not guaranteeing Vick a $10 million contract or making him the poster boy for the leagues community outreach. Goodell is simply putting Vick’s future into the hands of Michael Vick and any team willing to sign him. He really didn’t have any other choice.

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