Michael Vick is out of prison and headed home, broke and reviled for running a vicious dogfighting ring, but hopeful for a second chance at his once-charmed life as a star NFL quarterback.
The suspended quarterback served 19 months in prison on the dogfighting conviction that capped one of the most astonishing falls in sports history — one that stole his wealth and popularity.
“Football is on the back burner for now,” said agent Joel Segal, who negotiated Vick’s 10-year, $130 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons but will be asking for substantially less if his tarnished client’s suspension is lifted by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Vick deserves a second chance, but it won’t be with Atlanta, which has severed ties with its former star.
Vick, who turns 29 in June, left the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., by car early Wednesday, undetected by hordes of reporters who had staked out the prison.
He was accompanied on the 1,200-mile ride by his fiancee, Kijafa Frink, a videographer and several members of a security team assembled by Vick’s lawyers and advisers, a person familiar with the plans told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to comment on the matter. The person did not know the reason for the videographer.
Avoiding the media will be tougher in Hampton, where he will serve two months in home confinement. His five-bedroom brick house is at the end of a cul-de-sac, where at least a half-dozen satellite trucks and several reporters and camera crews awaited his return. Out back, between the house and a pond, maintenance workers got the swimming pool ready.
Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison for financing a dogfighting conspiracy. He won’t be released from federal custody until July 20, but his departure from Leavenworth begins a new chapter.
“It’s a happy day for him to be starting this part of the process,” said Larry Woodward, Vick’s Virginia-based attorney, said. “He looks forward to meeting the challenges he has to meet.”
His ultimate goal is a return to the NFL, but Woodward said Vick’s first priority “is spending time with his children and his loved ones.”
Chief among his challenges is rehabilitating his image and convincing the public and Goodell that he is truly sorry for his crime, and that he is prepared to live a different life — goals that will depend more on deeds than words.
“It goes beyond, ‘Has he paid his debt to society?’ Because I think that from a legal standpoint and financially and personally, he has,” Blank said at an NFL owners’ meeting Wednesday.
Part of Vick’s problem was the company he kept, Blank said, and weeding out the bad influences and associating with people who have his best interests at heart will be a key to redemption and a possible return to the NFL.
“There’s the expression ‘you are what you eat.’ To some extent, you are who you hang with too, and that does have an effect on lives for all of us,” he said.
Vick’s NFL future remains a mystery.
“Mike’s already paid his dues,” Falcons receiver and former teammate Roddy White said Wednesday. “He wants to play football. I think if he gets reinstated before the season, there’ll be a couple of teams that will be after him and give him a chance to play.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Vick doesn’t deserve that chance until he passes psychological tests proving he is capable of feeling genuine remorse.
“Our position would be the opportunity to play in the NFL is a privilege, not a right,” PETA spokesman Dan Shannon said.
First up for Vick is a $10-an-hour job as a laborer for a construction company. That job is part of his probation, and he will find out more about the restrictions he faces in home confinement when he meets with his probation officer later this week. He also will be equipped with an electronic monitor.
The Humane Society of the United States said Vick met its president recently in prison and wants to work on a program aimed at eradicating dogfighting among urban teens.
Karen Pierce, a board member of a foundation Vick established in 2006 to help disadvantaged youths in his hometown of Newport News and Atlanta, also has said her former seventh-grade English student has told her one of his priorities after his release will be to get that program back up and running.
DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said the group supports Vick and his family “as he works to rebuild his life.”
Vick also has many financial problems to resolve. He filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July, but his reorganization plan was rejected last month by a judge who ordered him to draft a new one. The judge was concerned about the feasibility of the plan, which is based largely on his return to the NFL.
Vick will be on three years of probation. He also pleaded guilty to a state dogfighting charge in November and received a three-year suspended sentence.
So he’s out and it’s going to be all they are going to talk about today, locally and nationally, this is just a huge story and I want to know what you guys think: Does Mike Vick deserve a second chance?
I say YES.
What he did was really, really scummy. Whether it’s just upbringing or the culture he grew up in (and not just the South… Dog Fighting happens here in Detroit right down 8 mile, right near your backyard). So if you’re raised around dog fighting and it’s never been a big deal, you’re just not going to have the level of outrage other people are going to have. There are similar issues with cock fighting. I watched this documentary on it about a year back, they followed this guy that was prepping his bird for fighting. Now let me tell you how watching that went in my head… OH! MY! GAWD! It was BRUTAL. BRUTAL. They put these razor things on the birds legs and tip them with poison. The birds, naturally territorial, didn’t want to kill each other. They spazzed for a second and then wanted nothing to do with each other. The handlers continually were goading the birds into each other. It was disgusting.
Then again, so were the Romans. They would buy PEOPLE and shove them in a pit and have them kill or be killed and cheer and yell and applaud. Killing as sport is not new. It’s a helluva lot older than Football.
In fact, American Football is the modern gladiator sport.
What? Yeah! I SAID IT.
You call them gridiron gladiators, don’t you? You idealize them, don’t you? You cheer, you applaud, you go “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” when some poor bastard gets leveled. It’s cool as long as he gets up, right? What’s the difference between seeing Orlando Pace pancake Kevin Smith versus Warren Sapp hitting that guy from Green Bay? Kevin Smith got up. (I couldn’t think of a wicked hit where someone got up, so don’t spam the comments with observations about that, k?)
We’re dealing with a grey area here.
We are humans and humans (especially males) have a lust for violence. What we’re really talking about here is where we draw the line. Where is it okay to relish and where does it have to stop?
Vick is a scum bag for what he’s done.
But there are a lot of scum bags in the NFL and they’re playing. Hockey, Soccer, Basketball, Baseball… they all have their share of scum bags.
Vick has paid his dues. Federal Prison has to suck, even if it’s a “nice” one for the rich people. So let him lay it out on the field. You can even watch him take a nasty hit because he’ll be a terrible quarterback on a terrible team and watch him writhe in agony and mumble to yourself “eh… he deserves it”.
He at least deserves the chance for it.