The League

Michael Wilbon
Columnist

Michael Wilbon

Washington Post sports reporter and ESPN personality

Vick's Short Leash

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Roger Goodell would like you to think he reinstated Michael Vick immediately. It was a really, really smart move tactically to announce Vick may participate "without delay" in practices, workouts and meetings, and he can even play in his new team's final two preseason games. The NFL, the best ever when it comes to shaping perception, wants those of us who feel Vick has been punished enough already to think Vick isn't being punished any further.

But the league is absolutely punishing Vick further by not allowing him back onto the field until Week 6 of the upcoming season. Two years of jail apparently wasn't a big enough hit for the NFL, whose laws evidently supersede the laws of the land. So the NFL has instituted a transition program, which includes Vick being mentored by Tony Dungy and monitored by Commissioner Goodell, which both seem reasonable even if totally paternalistic.

The NFL, understandably, is letting Vick back in with the understanding he is on -- dare I say this -- a very short leash. No legal slipups. No bad associations. No drug or alcohol use, no possessing a firearm or other dangerous weapon. And Vick certainly cannot own a dog. He has to work with the Humane Society and has to have a formal mentoring relationship with Dungy and other advisors who will help oversee his life and his reentry into professional football.

Vick, if you believe all the statement he released, said he is "grateful" for the opportunity to re-enter the league under any terms or conditions. Vick should be grateful. And no doubt all this was agreed upon before Goodell announced Vick can return.

But I also believe the reactions from people close to the Vick case that they are outraged the NFL would pile on by suspending Vick for four to five more games after doing 19 months in jail and a couple of more in home confinement. Vick, I too believe, has done enough time. I might be inclined to see the NFL's point if the league was as nearly as tough on abuse of women and vehicular deaths that result from drunk driving, but historically it simply hasn't been.

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By Michael Wilbon  |  July 27, 2009; 9:54 PM ET  | Category:  Atlanta Falcons , Crime , Michael Vick , NFL , Roger Goodell , Washington Redskins Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Comments

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Are you kidding? Playing in the NFL is a privilege not a right. What he did was horrific and inexcusable. Nice try though!

Posted by: hannahlope | July 28, 2009 6:05 AM

Your point is well taken, but doesn't explain the real difficulty Vick faces by facing another four or five game suspension. It's much more difficult now to bring him into camp if you really need a QB because you can't have him start from Week 1, and if you have a reliable starter bringing him in as a backup or injury-insurance is a potential disaster team chemistry-wise. So it effectively keeps Vick out of training camp and on the sidelines until someone gets hurt, and only then will the five game suspension take hold. So you are correct in assessing that it's as if they planned a lost year for him, rather than being able to jump back in from the first day of camp as the Man for some team.

Let's hope and pray Vick is strong enough mentally as well as physically to meet all of his obligations and regain a job somewhere and show that second chances are worthwhile.

Posted by: darien14 | July 28, 2009 8:54 AM

Let us hope and pray that Vick doesn't get signed, slips further into debt, goes into the drug trade business and gets murdered over drugs.

It would've happened anyways if he wasn't an athlete.

Posted by: kenk3 | July 28, 2009 10:24 AM

Michael Vick is a public person whose actions reflect poorly upon his employer.

Had you been convicted of the same charge which Vick had been convicted, would the managing editor of your newspaper hire you back after your prison sentence was completed ?

In a similar fashion, when looking at the Sprewell/Carlisimo incident a few years back, is there anyone out there who could have choked his/her boss and not been fired ?

When an athlete fulfills a prison sentence or makes token amends in other ways, it doesn't necessarily make him a suitable candidate for a job in the public spotlight again. Please, Wilbon... as one respondent put it "playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right".

Posted by: rehillcj | July 28, 2009 10:59 AM

Every NLF team owner knows there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters outside the stadium if Vick is on their team OR a visiting team.

Nobody wants that kind of publicity, and you know at least the local news will pick it up, and maybe the national news too.

We PET owners, numbering int the tens of millions, and are DEDICATED TO OUR PETS, and we will not hesitate to show our complete contempt and disrespect for Vick and his despicable acts of CRUELTY OVER SIX YEARS ! !

Just look at the smirk on his face in the lead to this article. You could have picked a more contrite picture.

.

Posted by: swanieaz | July 28, 2009 11:42 AM

He lied to the commish and to Arty Blank. There are people who were falsely imprisoned and now can't find a job. I guess they don't run a 4.4 though. Save the outrage.

Posted by: Gweez | July 28, 2009 11:56 AM

Mke Wilbon confuses two quite separate issues.

Vick has served a prison sentence -- that's the punishment.

Now he needs to prove he has developed good judgment. That's something he never showed before he went to prison (not just with the dog case; think of the various Ron Mexico exploits) and something that prison doesn't give.

Yes, this plan is hand-holding, paternalistic, or whatever you might want to call it, but this is a man who has proven -- again, not just with the dog case -- he needs that. The NFL plan brings him back in steps, allowing him to develop and show judgment along the way. And if he craters, it will be far less disruptive to the NFL to let him go if he's not a full active player at the time.

The irony is, what if the NFL allowed him back immediately, and he got in trouble again? Then Vick's supporters would criticize the NFL, saying "You can't just bring a guy from prison one day to the NFL the next! The change and the pressure was too much! It's your fault he screwed up again, you should have helped him along!" You know they would.

The NFL is going to be criticized either way. But it's chosen a defensible, careful, and pro-Vick middle ground.

Posted by: rowerinva | July 28, 2009 12:43 PM

The NFL is a private organization, a club if you will. The contracts/memberships it gives to its athletes are entirely up to the president of the organization.

That is why the NFL is able to have age limitations on drafting. That is why there are salary caps. the NFL may be an employer for many people, but it is still operates as a country club. Membership exclusionary facets included

Posted by: coblegrizz | July 28, 2009 2:03 PM

Lesson For Children: most people are accountable for their actions. People who are powerful, rich or famous are less accountable. Crime doesn't pay and you shouldn't go down that road...unless you are a famous athlete. Then it is perfectly ok to be abusive, deadly, and cause irreversable suffereing. Rev. Bookburn - Radio Volta

Posted by: revbookburn | July 28, 2009 7:13 PM

the NFL has a carefully manufactured image that is very valuable to each of the owners in the league. it is the commissioner's job to protect and enhance that image. his job depends on satisfying the owners that he is indeed looking out for their best interests.

so i'm afraid you are wrong mr. wilbon.
michael vick is the responsible party for the jam he finds himself in. no one else is responsible. not the commissioner and not the rest of the nfl. vick will have to make the best of what the NFL is offering him. if no owner will take him he'll have to find employment elsewhere.

Posted by: surlydoc | July 29, 2009 12:38 AM

Vick should not be rewarded in any way after the crimes he commited. Allowing him to play football, which he seems to enjoy, would be rewarding him.

Absolutely NOT, No way, no how, not now, not ever.

NO FOOTBALL FOR HIM.

Call me if you need a woman to kick his wussy azz!

Posted by: Rubiconski | July 29, 2009 1:44 AM

Right on Mike. Talk about piling on. This almost sounds like a personal vendetta from the Commissioner. I wonder if he'll be as tough on the guy from Cleveland who ran down a man while he was driving drunk. And if he is, will the outrage still be there when HE gets re-instated?

Posted by: oldwolf53 | July 29, 2009 11:30 AM

I guess I'm old school. I say no NFL for felons. Period.

Think of the ad potential: "The only felons at this game are in the stands!!"

"Felon Free Zone"

It's always been difficult to understand how people who are paid SO MUCH become involved in crime. Oh sure, I understand the occasional crime of passion, because that crime respects no income level. But multi-millionaires carrying concealed weapons where it is a felony, running dog fighting rings? I don't get it.

Goodell may be trying to maintain some kind of image for the NFL, and perhaps for some rabid fans, that image is a respectable one. Not for me. A lifelong Redskins fan, every drip drip of outrageous behavior by NFL players over the years has drained me of my interest. I no longer go to or watch the games.

The NFL image: to me it is --- for the most part --- a bunch of overpaid thugs who probably can't read, but allegedly graduated from college; many are felons, and society, especially the media goes to extraordinary lengths to look over, past, and through the failure of the league to keep its player roster free from people who have no respect for the league or the game.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | July 29, 2009 12:06 PM

I am truly "old school". I don't believe one mistake should end or even characterize your life. Many of the pet owners of America are also Christians, who should believe in forgiveness; however, these Christians are only Christians when it's comfortable.
I really don't believe these Christians lack forgiveness but have an overabundance of jealousy. "How dare this Black Man make more money in a year, than I will make in a lifetime for doing something, I am truly poor at doing. How dare they come from the slums of America and be given an opportunity that I can't have. How dare they do wrong while having an opportunity I would love to have."
Relax and understand the truth. The NFL does not really care what you think. As soon as it becomes more profitable to have Vick than not to have him, he will play. And by the way, I did not notice you commenting on the executives who chose to issue tainted peanut butter that killed people in AMERICA. (Guess they did not come from the ghetto, so who cares)

Posted by: noname31 | August 3, 2009 5:18 PM

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