With his recent guilty plea to animal cruelty charges in a Virginia court, there has been much speculation about Michael Vick's return to the NFL. His projected release date of July 20 would be just in time for him to report to an NFL training camp. His release could even be moved up with the plea.
While there are many who believe Vick should not be allowed to return to the NFL, it must be said that he isn't as bad as some who have been arrested and returned to the league.
In a data table compiled by the San Diego Union-Tribune, there have been 385 arrests among NFL players since 2000. Of those, 163 were repeat offenders, i.e. guys who were given (at least) a second chance.
Care to guess how many of those arrests were one Michael Dwayne Vick? One. That's right: Just one time was this guy hauled in out of 385 total arrests of NFL players.
Dog fighting is a disgusting, despicable crime, but at the end of the day, it's not a crime against humanity. Now before the PETA types start in, I'm not saying it's better to hurt a dog than a human. It's just really not as big of a deal.
There are an average of 43 arrests per year among NFL players, and about 21 of those are violent crimes—violent crimes against other human beings. Many of these guys serve a game or two suspension and do a little community service, and they're back on the field without any more questions.
Let's take a look at some of these offenders.
May 20, 2007: New York Jets CB/KR Justin Miller was arrested at 4:20am after assaulting a woman in a night club and running from the cops. Sure, Justin was trying to punch a man, but the guy ducked and Miller's fist found a woman's face—but does that really make it any better? No one ever spoke up against Miller's return to the field.
July 26, 2007: Carolina OT Jeremy Bridges pointed a gun at a Charlotte strip club employee. He was suspended two games and was fined $500. Wait, $500? That can't be right, let me check... Yes, he was fined a mere $500 for threatening another human being's life. Maybe they were hoping the whopping 60-day suspended jail sentence and 60 days of community service would teach him.
Aug. 5, 2007: Buffalo DE Anthony Hargrove was charged with resisting arrest, harassment, and criminal mischief after striking a police officer at yet another night club. Hargrove was forced to pay a staggering $300 fine and perform 200 hours of community service.
July 17, 2007: Michael Vick was arrested for violating federal laws on dog fighting. He was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison. He was barred from training camp and indefinitely suspended by the NFL.
In other words, it's not so bad to punch women or police officers, or to wave guns around and resist arrest, but if you so much as kick your dog, you're going to the big house. It just doesn't make sense.
If we stop and think about it, Michael Vick will play football again. It may come as a shock to some, but there are leagues out there besides the NFL. The Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League come to mind.
After his bout with the law and the NFL, Ricky Williams landed on a Canadian team roster. It would probably be a shot in the arm for a team's attendance in one of these "Secondary" leagues.
Even lower on the totem pole are minor indoor football leagues. The players' salaries can range from $100 to $500 per game, and they are allowed to "chase their dream" as long as their body holds up.
There are leagues like the CIFL (Continental Indoor Football League), the SIFL (Southern Indoor Football League), and the AIFA (American Indoor Football Association). Surely one of these P.T. Barnum "wannabes" would sign Vick, if only to bring attention to his team.
The bottom line is that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is taking a tough stance on player conduct. But he could be a little more judicious about picking his battles.
After Vick serves his time in prison, he should be done with his punishment and allowed to move on with his life—and it would be better for the NFL to have him in the fold than for him to be out helping to promote a competing league.