Contrary to rumors for much of the past several days, Roger Goodell has announced his decision not to suspend Michael Vick and to conditionally reinstate him. The news comes as positive, but unexpected for Vick, who for much of the week was rumored to be facing a suspension of four games.
Vick will be allowed to participate in training camp, and the final two preseason games. He will be allowed to participate in all team activities, except the games, until week six. That's the catch.
Essentially, this is a five game suspension. Don't let the headlines of reinstatement fool you.
Some will greet the news of Vick being "conditionally reinstated" as some sort of favor or good deed by the commissioner. I disagree.
While Goodell reserves every right to set conditions on the reinstatement of Vick, the decision to not allow him to play until week six is troubling. Since he was incarcerated, Vick has done everything he was required to do and behaved as a good citizen. He faced and completed his 23 month sentence with excellent behavior.
The decision to withhold Vick from playing until the sixth game of the season doesn't make sense. It doesn't give him an adequate chance of seeking a starting role.
I fail to understand the need for the five game suspension.
Bear in mind that Vick was already serving a suspension while he was in jail; a suspension that lasted 23 months. It was not his fault that it ran congruent to his time behind bars. Either way, he was still suspended from employment by the league and lost all the money that he could have made during that time.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Terrell Owens, no stranger to controversy himself, felt that any additional sanction on Vick would be "unfair".
Former NFL Coach Tony Dungy agreed, saying on the Dan Patrick Show, "I tend to agree with Terrell Owens on this. I feel like he's missed 32 games already and missed a ton of money."
I am all for Goodell doing whatever is that he can do, within the limits of his power, to help the NFL achieve the goal of a cleaner image.
I am for him suspending players, such as Chris Henry and Adam "Pacman" Jones, who repeatedly break the law and show utter disregard for any rules or regulations placed upon them. But there has to be some line or distinction made between those types of repeat offenders and someone like Vick, who went to jail for the first time.
Up to the point of the dog-fighting scandal, Vick was the poster boy of the NFL and Nike. His face graced the likes of Madden, the popular video game, along with covers for Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and several commercials.
What will be accomplished by the additional five game suspension?
Making an example out of people for the betterment of the entire league is a noble concept. But has Michael Vick not suffered enough in the eyes of the public? Has there ever been a person who has been more severely penalized for the crime that they committed than Vick has?
I challenge you to find an individual convicted of dog-fighting who has served more time, lost more money, and been more embarrassed in the eyes of the public than Vick has. Granted, he is a public figure, but that doesn't mean his penalty should be any greater, or any less, than any other citizen of this country.
Leonard Little of the St. Louis Rams served less time for manslaughter stemming from driving under the influence. Donte Stallworth served 24 days in jail for killing a man while also driving under the influence.
The fact of the matter is that Vick committed an egregious and heinous act. He has since apologized for his acts. He was found guilty in the court of law and sentenced to serve time in prison. He completed his sentence.
While serving his sentence, he was also suspended by the his employer, lost any salary and benefits that he could have received during that span, and has essentially gone bankrupt (reportedly, over $20 million in debt).
His name is forever linked to the sick act that he participated in and no matter how much public service or outreach he participates in, Vick and "dog-killer" will always be synonymous, until the day of his death.
Is that not enough of a penalty? Will an additional five games really make anyone say, "Yes. NOW I really feel like he has gotten what he deserves."
The answer is "No." And that is why I am disappointed with the conditions that Goodell has set for Vick's reinstatement.
After all, even a steroid using Shawne Merriman got to play more games that season than Vick will in 2009-10. What does that say about league priorities?