Does Michael Vick Deserve a Second Chance?

Patrick Cwiklinski@@patcwiklinskiCorrespondent IAugust 28, 2008

At one point in time, Michael Vick was one of the NFL’s most skilled and dynamic players. He carried a name so recognizable that it was hard not to have heard about him. Many would even argue that Vick’s accomplishments as a player have revolutionized the position of the traditional quarterback and have changed the game forever.

Vick’s lethal combination of speed and football sense earned him an Archie Griffin Award in 1999, when he played for Virginia Tech.

His sensational NCAA career opened the gates for his NFL career, and at the 2001 NFL Draft in New York City, after being selected by the Atlanta Falcons, Vick became the first African-American quarterback to be picked first overall in an NFL Draft.

As a Falcon, Vick saw limited action in his first year with the team, but by the 2002-2003 season, he had begun his first season as their full-time quarterback. Vick’s first full season with the Falcons saw him play in 15 games, make 421 pass attempts, 231 of which were completed, and run for 777 yards.

The same season, Vick also broke an NFL record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game with 173 yards against the Minnesota Vikings, Dec. 1, 2002.

His career-highlight year also earned him a spot on the 2002 NFL Pro Bowl team, as well as being crowned as one the NFL’s brightest stars and the Falcons’ marquee player at 22.

After his first season with the Falcons, Vick’s resume has pretty much spoken for itself. Breaking new records almost every season, being named to two more Pro Bowl teams, a Best NFL Player ESPY Award, as well as appearing on various sports magazines, television talk shows, and even on the cover of the 2004 edition of the popular video game series Madden NFL.

Everything was going Vick’s way, and it seemed that he’d be on his way to the NFL Hall of Fame in no time at all, until the unthinkable happened.

As Vick’s 2006-2007 campaign came to an end, a memorable one at that, he disappeared into the offseason, living the million-dollar lifestyle as an NFL megastar.

However, in April 2007, all that would change after police received a tip that there was some strange activities going on at Vick’s 15-acre property in Surry County, VA, and what they found was something so horrible that the NFL star went from fame to shame in a matter of days.

Police found over 70 dogs, mostly pit-bull terriers. Some showed signs of serious injury, and they were immediately seized by authorities, as Vick became the center of a public outrage and media frenzy.

It was discovered that Vick served as one of the ringleaders of an interstate dog-fighting ring known as “Bad Newz Kennels,” where dogs were forced to fight in high-stakes gambling matches and then brutally executed.

Media outlets released details of the operation, which included the dogs being hung, drowned, electrocuted, and/or shot. In July 2007, Vick and three other men were indicted on federal felony and misdemeanor charges relating to the six-year criminal enterprise, and soon after, Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison.

Currently serving his sentence at the United States Penitentiary (USP), Leavenworth in Leavenworth, KS, Vick has also been suspended by the NFL until further notice, becoming a disgrace amongst professional athletes and role models the world over.

During his prison stint, Vick has engaged himself in a prison football program and keeps in touch through letters with Falcons owner, Arthur Blank. Memories of a future football legend have been replaced with thoughts of a deeply disturbed human being with a sick and twisted view on what he believed was entertainment.

So where do you go from here, once Vick comes home from prison and is let back into society, what happens? Should he be made an example of and not be able to ever play football again, or should he get a second chance?

The topic of Vick’s future as an NFL player has been controversial ever since his arrest, and it’s only going to get more and more heated as his release grows nearer.

There are some who believe what he has done is unforgivable and the NFL would be making a big mistake letting a player like him return and set an example for others to think that it’s okay to commit a horrendous crime, go to prison, then get out and make millions again.

On the other hand, while surely not as extreme cases, Barry Bonds can take steroids and still be labeled as one of the greatest baseball players of all time, and Mike Tyson can act like an absolute lunatic, go in and out of prison, and could still be able to box professionally, then why can’t Vick have a second shot at his career?

NFL players such as Tank Johnson, Adam “Pacman” Jones, and Ricky Williams all had legal issues in their careers, and yet they are functioning members of the league today.

Maybe the question should be: Where do you draw the line?

The NFL has a prime opportunity to show that this type of behaviour won’t be tolerated because being a member of a national league is a privilege that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The money, fame, and praise you get as an athlete is the closet thing to actual royalty anyone who’s not in the bloodline will get. I’m not arguing the talent part of football, or any sport for that matter, because I can’t say that I can go out and do what these men do because I would be lying.

What I can say is that I believe being a professional athlete brings a huge amount of responsibility, and if you’re not able to handle it, then you shouldn’t be able to reap the rewards.

It’s only a matter of time now before Vick is released and is back on the streets, and you have to ask yourself a difficult question: Does he deserve a second chance?

Maybe the answer isn’t as simple as yes or no, but maybe it is. Speculation is speculation, but essentially, it’s going to come down to the perception of everyday people that will decide his fate.

If the public wants Michael Vick, then the public will get Michael Vick, and if not, write him off as having nothing to do with football in the future.

So, in other words, you be the judge.