Forget the uniform. The correctional-grey suit Michael Vick wore into a courtroom today in Sussex, Va. Forget it. Forget even the Falcons’ red, black and white uni.
The former uniform should not ultimately define Vick, not if all goes as he, his attorneys and family plan. And the latter, he’ll never wear again.
Michael Vick will play in the National Football League again, maybe as early as next season; more likely no later than 2010. Yes, he will.
After pleading guilty to a state dogfighting charge on Tuesday, moments after being led into the courtroom in shackles, the former quarterback cleared the way for his potential freedom. His 23-month federal sentence for bankrolling a dogfighting enterprise at a Virginia home he owned is scheduled to end on July 20, 2009. Now, with all of the charges against him resolved, he might even be released to a halfway facility sooner than that.
I don’t know if Vick is sorry for what he did. Oh, I know he’s “sorry,” seeing that it cost him his freedom, his rep (at least with those of us who did not attend his doggie deathtrap) and every last cent of his $130 million contract. Yeah, he’s “sorry.”
I’m willing to bet that he is, and if that’s the case, then he not only will play in the NFL again, but he deserves the opportunity to do – having paid for his crimes in every which way.
But I’m not the one he’ll have to convince. Or the ones. In fact, not long after visiting his family and friends upon his release, Vick must stand before us all and tell us how he feels. Tell us how much he understands. Tell us that he’s sorry.
Then he must high-tail it to Roger Goodell and look the NFL commissioner straight in the eye and tell him that he’s sorry, and explain why he should be allowed to practice his craft again in the NFL. Goodell will likely implement some sort of additional suspension. If Vick is lucky, it won’t be for the entire 2009 season.
Finally, Vick will have to face his must vociferous tormentors – those Pople for the Ethical Treatment of Animals folk. They’re not my favorite group. I hate their tactics and often think they’re more interested in attention than their cause. But this is the truth: If Michael Vick does not make peace with PETA, they will be his worst nightmare.
They will picket his every move (they were outside the courthouse Tuesday). They will hassle any franchise that dares sign him. They will make fans squirm and give owners ulcers. So upon leaving Goodell’s office, Vick must take a trek to PETA and at least make an effort to get them to call off the (ahem) dogs.
They’ve actually given him an out. On Tuesday. PETA’s assistant director, Dan Shannon, told the Associated Press: “If [Vick] chooses to [speak out against dogfighting], that’s the only way I think he could ever be seen as any kind of a positive public figure.”
Take that ball and run with it, Michael. It’s the only way you’ll be able to shed the grey uniform you wore into the courtoom today, and the only way get the opportunity to run in another NFL uniform again.