Because we cherish the human capacity for rehabilitation and reinvention, of personal improvement and redemption, Michael Vick will receive a shot to once again earn a living in the NFL.
Just not in Seattle. Despite some obvious connections, the Seahawks don’t need the headaches, and they don’t need him as a quarterback.
The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback was released from federal prison Wednesday after serving 21 months of a 23-month sentence for his involvement in an interstate dogfighting conspiracy.
Vick executed one of the most spectacular career demolitions in sports history by going from the NFL’s highest-paid player to a disgraced felon. This was not a case of youthful indiscretion or temporary knuckleheadness; it involved ghastly inhumane treatment of animals.
The common statement is that he has paid his debt to society. Let’s just say that he served the sentence that was imposed. What a human owes society seems to be a more philosophical matter.
Aside from the imprisonment, he lost a huge portion of his $130 million contract, and untold endorsements. The financial forfeiture seems more like a justifiable stupidity tax. He threw that away with astoundingly poor judgment.
But soon he will be free to work on reclaiming his career and rebuilding his fractured public image.
To have his indefinite suspension lifted, he’ll need to convince commissioner Roger Goodell that he’s a new man.
I wouldn’t think that’s going to be a rubber-stamp deal, either. And any franchise that takes Vick assumes a heavy public relations risk in the face of animal rights groups that surely will protest.
In a strange courtship that seems to be a great deal about mutual exploitation, representatives of the Humane Society of the United States reportedly have met with Vick about using him as a force for consciousness-raising in the fight against animal cruelty. They get giant publicity and Vick scores points with Goodell.
But his greatest chance to return to relevance would be on the football field. In a league in which a number of teams face shaky quarterback situations, a three-time Pro Bowl player will have his appeal – even with the hefty PR baggage.
Some have mentioned Seattle as a potential employer for Vick for obvious reasons.
Vick earned two Pro Bowl berths while playing for Falcons coach Jim Mora, now coach of the Seahawks. Vick’s offensive coordinator there for three seasons was Greg Knapp, the Seahawks’ new offensive coordinator.
A team executive during one of Vick’s best seasons with the Falcons was Tim Ruskell, general manager of the Seahawks.
When stories of Vick’s legal issues hit the news, Mora – an assistant with the Seahawks at the time – was as supportive of him as he could be while also being sensitive to the severity of the charges. Mora surely felt a degree of loyalty to a former player.
There are practical matters for teams to consider regarding Vick’s return. Although he is one of the game’s most gifted athletes, he’s been out of football for two seasons.
And as for his preparedness to return to the NFL, one of his spokesmen judiciously commented that Vick has many other more pressing personal concerns to straighten out before thinking about playing.
In Seattle, Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck missed half of the 2008 season with a back injury, but Ruskell sees Hasselbeck as a player still in his prime. Nobody is going to bring in Vick to replace Hasselbeck.
And Seahawks backup Seneca Wallace went a long way toward proving himself capable, starting eight games last season and compiling a passer rating of 87.0 – higher than Vick’s best of 81.6 way back in 2002.
Wallace and Vick both are about to turn 29. Wallace has no felonies and also is a more accurate passer.
From his first days in Seattle, Ruskell has stressed his focus on players with high character. He’s not going to call up owner Paul Allen to inform him that he’s suddenly interested in a player just released from Leavenworth.
Vick will get his chance. But the Seahawks surely will pass.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440