Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Should Michael Vick be allowed to return to the NFL?

Posted by sanityinjection on February 19, 2009

Now that the NFL offseason has begun, speculation has commenced regarding the future of former NFL quarterback Michael Vick. Even those who are not avid football fans may recall Vick’s staggering fall from star quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons to incarceration at Leavenworth federal prison after conviction on felony dogfighting charges. Vick’s prison sentence will be ending this summer, raising the question of whether he could be reinstated after his release to play football in the 2009 season. Vick was suspended indefinitely without pay after pleading guilty to the charges. In order for him to return, the NFL’s commissioner, Roger Goodell would have to lift that suspension, and then a team would have to acquire the rights to Vick through a trade with the Falcons, with whom he remains under contract, but who have clearly stated will not play him again.

I’ve seen a few columns on this question, of which this one is probably the most thorough. Essentially, there are three different factors to consider, which I would label as the football factor, the public relations/marketing factor, and the moral/ethical factor.

First, the football factor. Can Vick play well enough to be an asset to an NFL team? I think there is broad agreement that the answer to this question is yes. Before his abrupt departure from the sport, Vick was known as one of the finer pure athletes in the NFL. That athletic ability is unlikely to be too diminished once he is able to resume a proper training regimen. Vick’s quarterback skills have been questioned, but depending on his price Vick could make a scary backup for a number of teams even if no one wanted to give him a starting job. However, there is no lack of other quarterback prospects out there, with promising youths coming out of the college ranks on a regular basis. What is questionable is whether Vick’s football talents exceed the others by enough to outweigh the non-football factors that come with him.

Such as the public relations factor. Vick’s crime was one that is particularly repugnant to many. Animal welfare groups such as the Humane Society and PETA have suggested they might protest any team that signed Vick. And more mainstream folk might feel a reluctance to cheer for Vick or (just as importantly) buy Vick jerseys or shoes. With more NFL players getting arrested for various reasons, the league and its teams have an interest in presenting themselves as organizations which pride themselves on the character of their players, coaches, and staff. Vick would be an obvious embarrassment in that regard. However, there have been several players convicted of misdemeanors who returned to the NFL. Vick’s crime is also more complicated because it involved gambling on the dogfights, and the NFL has in the past taken a hard line against players found to have participated in illegal gambling.

Finally, there is the moral/ethical factor. Does Vick deserve a second chance? Some columnists have pointed out correctly that Vick will have served his sentence and paid for his crime. Why, they ask, should he be punished further by denying him the right to earn his living? After all, Vick left college before earning his degree; football has been his only career.

I would argue that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, and not a right. Even the lowest-paid NFL players make six-figure salaries, while many college players fail to make the cut and never receive the opportunities Vick has had. When a convicted felon is released from prison, he cannot necessarily expect to resume the career he had before his conviction, and may have to learn a new career. Vick should be no exception. If that means peddling cell phones at the mall, as a Denver running back did last year before being re-signed by his team, so be it.

If I were an NFL general manager, I think I would have a hard time justifying the decision to employ Michael Vick over another quarterback with no off-field issues. But the question remains whether commissioner Goodell should reinstate Vick and allow the teams to make that decision for themselves. With other players, Goodell has generally been willing to grant second chances provided the player is sincere about reforming himself, as I have no doubt Vick would be. But as a lawyer and someone deeply aware of the league’s financial and image concerns, Goodell may not be so inclined to be charitable. I think Goodell will probably agree to talk with Vick, but would be completely justified in refusing to reinstate him. Drawing that line could have a positive effect as a sharp warning to other players who have had run-ins with the law that they risk losing the opportunity of a lifetime if they keep it up.


12 Responses to “Should Michael Vick be allowed to return to the NFL?”

  1. sanityinjection said

    This AP story suggests that the San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings would be the most likely teams to take a flyer on Vick if he’s reinstated:

  2. Jason said

    I don’t know anymore. At first, I would have said no. But, he has served his time, lost his fortune, and will be cast as the perpetual bad guy.

    I say if he can find employment in his old job after he has served his debt to society, then I guess that is between him and his employer.

    Of course, can you imagine the circus that will be created by hiring him?

  3. Anonymous said

    He knew what he was doing was illegal… maybe he even knew it was downright cruel. Why should he be allowed to jump back in the ring and make millions of dollars and have little kids look up to him just because he has talent? He threw it away on his own accord and should never be allowed back into the NFL. Period.

  4. karna said

    Michael vick as served his time and punishment, he should be able to resume playing football. why should he not be allowed, i meant dont we kill enough dogs everyday, and other animals as well. people say its cruel however there are millions of companies in america that slaughter animals painfully even though they are not suppose to. If your child looks up to football players then parents arent doing their responsibility of being a role model. He has mad football skills and thats all we care about.

  5. sanityinjection said

    Actually, Karna, the NFL has made it clear that they do care about more than just football skills. The league does not want to be known as a collection of thugs and criminals. And no position serves as the public face of the NFL as much as the quarterback position.

  6. Anonymous said


    Most convicted criminals don’t get their job back.
    Most employers do NOT hire violent criminals.
    Is the NFL the exception?

    Let’s not reward bad behavior!
    Vick’s job was a high-paying, high visibility job.
    Think about it!

    • Finnagen said

      Excellent response Anonymous. Michael Vick SHOULD NOT be allowed to return. I don’t care if he was the world’s greatest quarterback. As a human being he is so low that a ant would have to lift it’s leg to walk on him.

  7. sanityinjection said

    Appreciate your comments. I think it’s a little misleading to refer to Vick as a “violent criminal”. The only violent acts Vick has been accused of are the killing of fighting dogs. While that is thoroughly odious and cruel and arguably violent, it’s probably not what most people think of when they hear the term “violent criminal”. Not trying to excuse the conduct in any way, but it’s important to be clear. Otherwise I totally agree with you.

  8. Update: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has conditionally reinstated Vick. This means that Vick will be allowed to be signed by an NFL team and practice with them, and would be allowed to play in the final two pre-season games. However, Vick would not be allowed to play in the regular season until he applies for and receives a full reinstatement from the Commissioner’s office:

    Of course, Vick still needs to find a team willing to sign him. Several teams have flatly declared they are not interested. Vick needs the money as he is some $4 million in debt.

    Any team that signs Vick will have to consider the public relations consequences. Animal activists might well picket the team, and Vick jerseys are unlikely to sell. Having been out of football, Vick is unlikely to be ready to be a starting quarterback, and would most likely try to catch on as a second- or third-stringer. Vick was always a better scrambler than passer and might fit well into direct-snap schemes or play a “slash” role like former Pittsburgh Steeler Kordell Stewart.

    Although I would be happy if no team signed Vick, I think the odds are someone will take the chance on him. The Oakland Raiders would be the first team that comes to mind, as Vick would fit right in with their bad boy/rebel image. But the Raiders already have 4 quarterbacks on their roster – even if they let one go Vick would have to fight to make the team.

    If he can’t play in the NFL, Vick might end up with the fledgling UFL playing in Orlando. At least there he’d be able to start and prove that he can still play the game while collecting a paycheck.

  9. Update: Michael Vick has signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. This is a bit surprising because the Eagles would seem to be fine at the QB position, starting Donovan McNabb and with the young Kevin Kolb and the veteran AJ Feeley to back him up. It seems likely that the Eagles will use Vick more as a “slash” player, lining him up at wide receiver or halfback for direct-snap and other gadget plays. But you wonder why they would want to take up a roster spot with someone who will see limited time as opposed to depth at another position. Oh well – it certainly isn’t the first time I’ve questioned coach Andy Reid’s judgment.

    It will also be interesting to see how Philly fans react. One would expect there will be both pro and con opinions, but since it’s Philly, you can expect them to be voiced loudly either way 🙂

  10. mermaid said

    If a player is convicted of a violent crime, then the NFL should NEVER accept them back.
    What can be done to see that the NFL gets some basic moral values and standards?
    Micheal Vic tortured those dogs. He drowned them in his pool, electrocuted them, broke their necks, hung the ones that did not win, engaged them in dog fighting….and dog fighting doesn’t even make any money! He did it for the joy of torture– don’t give me some song and dance about how he has changed.
    It is also a known fact that people who torture animals most often go on to torturing humans…. everyone please boycott the Eagles.

    • The only thing you said that I would question is your assertion that dogfighting doesn’t make any money. I’m not sure where you got that idea, but on the contrary, my understanding is that substantial sums of money are wagered on dogfights. Cruel though he may be, it strains credibility to believe that Vick and his associates got as heavily involved in dogfighting as they did if they didn’t think they could make money at it.

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