Michael Vick is freshly released, free from his dog fighting charges that saw him go to jail and lose two years of his NFL career.
With Vick available, teams are certainly interested at the right price. I don’t think any team could bring him in to compete for a starting job, but including backups, I find it hard to believe there are 64 quarterbacks in the NFL better than Vick right now.
But the NFL wants to delay the process. Vick is suspended indefinitely and seeking reinstatement. The league, however, is mulling over suspending him for as little as four games and as much as the next season.
This is a dangerous road the league is treading here. Vick has served a stiff penalty. He was made an example of on charges a lot of people either don’t go to jail for or serve little time for. However, as a result of his celebrity status, he not only faced a public trial in court, but a trial in the court of public opinion.
In addition, he lost millions upon millions of dollars. He had to file bankruptcy and pay back money to his former employers, the Atlanta Falcons. He also missed two years in the prime of his career and will likely never earn the security of a long-term contract, no matter how well he could play coming back.
Many people like to discuss that it is a privilege, not a right, to play in the NFL. Which is exactly correct. There is nothing that states he has to play in the NFL.
But it is his right, not a privilege, to be able to earn a living to the best of his ability after being released from prison. And the NFL is trying to deny him that right, at least temporarily.
If a highly-successful investment banker had the same issues as Vick, would he settle for being a construction worker after being released from prison, as many wanted Vick to do? He would try to use his skills to find another job at what he is good at. Some people wouldn’t want to hire him, but he would knock down every door until there wasn’t another opportunity.
If another team does not want to offer him a contract because of his past, that is their prerogative. Many employers in every field are hesitant to hire a convicted felon. But you will not find a corporation that will take a public stance against it.
I’m sure if I could run a 4.3-second 40-yard dash and could throw a football 60 yards on a rope, teams would much rather hire me. Vick has a skill set that is perfect for professional football. And there are many worse people roaming the league than Vick.
Adam Jones and his night club escapades. Gun-toting players like Plaxico Burress and Tank Johnson. Leonard Little committed vehicular manslaughter while driving drunk, as did Donte Stallworth. All these guys either have or will have other jobs because of their skills.
These are also players who deserved to be suspended. They were out of control. And while they may have had to pay a small price in either fines, tickets or a small amount of jail time, at the end, these players really had no consequences for what they did. And I can understand why the NFL felt the need to step in.
Vick is destined to a string of one- or two-year, incentive-laden contracts. That means he will likely make league minimum with incentives if he plays and plays well. And that is not a bad living to make.
Nobody will ever entrust their franchise to him on the long-term, however, given his past. And that is nobody’s fault but Michael Vick’s. It is the burden he has to carry as part of his conviction.
But the NFL has no right to deny him that privilege. If an owner does not want to sign him, so be it. But Vick has served his time and paid a stiff price. So if someone wants to take a risk on him, so be it. He is a free man.
Share your thoughts with Matt Nestor via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
from the July 29-August 4, 2009, issue