Examining Michael Vick's Dogfighting: 2009 Edition

michael wongCorrespondent IMay 20, 2009

[Before anyone goes gung-ho and barrages my email with hate-mail, I just have to clarify that I personally did not make or have any part in making this particular image. In any case, I have been saving this picture for just the right occasion. -M]

How many times in the history of the NFL has there been a star-quarterback of Michael Vick's caliber indicted on serious criminal charges? How about how many times has that same person actually done time in prison for his actions?

I personally can only name a handful of players who make up a vast minority when compared to the number of humane and law-abiding citizens that make up the rest of the NFL.

Anyone remember Lawrence Phillips, the talented halfback from Nebraska? He basically threw away most of his entire career in favor of committing criminal activities. All I can say about him is, 'Thank God, I'm so, so glad that Ozzie Newsome picked Jonathan Ogden instead of Phillips in the first round.'

More recently, let me see here, we've got CB Adam 'Packman' Jones, the sixth-overall pick out of West Virginia. His rap-sheet just during his professional career is so staggering, I'll just leave it at this. It started off with a contract dispute with the Titans and at this point is up in the air since his off-season release from the Dallas Cowboys.

We've also got Chris Henry and basically the entire Cincinnati Bengals organization, Brandon Marshall, Marshawn Lynch, and Donte Stallworth. All of these players mentioned have done something to damage the integrity and reputation of the NFL and thus have earned themselves either fines, suspensions or both.

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I personally don't think that it's that far off to believe that professional football players are out there breaking the law. This is part of the reason why we're speeding through the before-mentioned players and not taking the time out to go into each with details.

None of these players besides perhaps Lawrence Phillips has done anything that earned them any considerable jail-time. The laws broken by NFL players typically are the same ones that are broken by some of our friends: drinking and driving, assault and battery, domestic abuse and speeding.

They might make good periodical headlines on NFL.com, but honestly none of these players hold a candle to what ex-Atlanta Falcon star-QB, Michael Vick, did in 2007.

We all know the story, or at least part of the story. Michael Vick was at the top of his game in 2006, having just signed a spanking-new contract that season, worth somewhere in the range of 10-years, $135 million. In 2004, Vick led his team all the way to the NFC championship game, where they eventually lost to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Somewhere along the way, after being selected first-overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2001 NFL Draft, Vick got caught up in a string of dog-fighting rings. Personally, I think it was his family and friends that got him into it but in reality the only person that really knows is him.

In the early part of 2007, the dog-fighting rings were discovered after weeks of investigation, eventually leading to the seizure and police-raid of one of his beautiful mansion-style homes in Virginia.

After posting bail and eventually pleading guilty to federal charges of animal cruelty and gambling, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down perhaps the harshest punishment in the past 20 years, suspending Vick indefinitely from playing in the NFL.

In addition to this suspension and the 23-month prison-term he was given by the federal judge, Falcons owner Arthur Blank released a press-statement in which he stated he would be seeking to get back around 20 million of the $37 million signing bonus they had just paid Vick the previous season.

So basically this left Vick pretty much in debt, in prison and suspended indefinitely from the only profession he had ever known. This to me was not only extremely harsh but completely ridiculous considering that he was a first-time offender.

Regardless of whether you feel it's fair or not, Vick is about to be released today, to finish out his prison-sentence in home-confinement. He's got another two months left to do, during which he's already lined up a construction job worth a staggering $10/hour.

Yes, you heard clearly, for the first time since perhaps ever Michael Vick will be doing real work at a normal job for normal pay.

Besides the construction work, Vick has already said that he's going to seek a return to the NFL. He's got a ton of college and former-NFL players who have already agreed to help him get back into football shape, possibly for a return to the NFL as soon as this or next season.

My personal opinion might be different from the average NFL fans, seeing as how I am more than happy to give Vick a second-chance. I am not a zealous-Christian/PETA activist, screaming for his head over killing a few pit bulls.

Was it wrong of him to have a bunch of dead, murdered dogs buried in his backyard? Without a doubt. I currently own a two-year old beagle whom I take care of and spend time with every single day. For me to say I wasn't sad to hear that an NFL player had done this would be a lie.

At the same time, I have a number of friends who live either in or below the Maryland-Virginia state line. Some of them have been involved in dog-fighting at one time or another. This is not to say that the average 'southern' inhabitant is out to break laws and doesn't care about their pets.

It just means that things are different, the way of life and the way they do things are often different in Virginia and the other states below the Mason-Dixon line then they are in other states.

To make a long story short, yes, I believe Vick should have been punished. The magnitude of his first-time offense was so severe that he definitely deserved some jail-time, a lengthy suspension or both. Did he get that? Again, yes he did.

He got both of things, got his NFL money and endorsement deals taken away, his family shunned and booed at every turn and his reputation forever dragged through the dirt. Michael Vick has done his time, and I believe he has sincerely shown that he is a changed man.

I think what it really comes down to is what a long stay in prison has done to his considerable football skills. If he can get back into football shape and show that he can still pass on the run/pull the ball down when necessary and gain 5-10 yards, he deserves to get another chance at playing in the NFL.

If Vick can show NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that he's sincerely remorseful and contrite for the horrible things he's done, there is a strong possibility that he will play somewhere as a back-up QB this very season.

He has the time now, over the next three-and-a-half months before training camp begins, to prepare himself for both the meeting with the commissioner and to find a team that will give him that second chance he's looking for.

In the worst case scenario, he will find himself as a backup QB, perhaps making the minimum for a player who's been in the league for seven seasons (I am only counting the six seasons he was with Atlanta, and one season with whichever team signs him -M).

Even if he ends up not ready for the '09 season because of his home confinement and/or the fear of media or fan backlash/reprisal, Vick will certainly get his shot either midway through the season or at the end of the season at the very latest.

Out of 32 total teams in the NFL, I cannot for certain say that there are currently 32 starting QBs that are better than he is. Certainly there are not 64 QBs better then him, even if you lower his value because of his non-orthodox playing style.

I mean look at his statistics. Three Pro-Bowls and three NFL records owned by perhaps the greatest running-QB to have ever played in the NFL. Even after his almost two-year stint in prison, Vick is still only 28 years old, arguably giving him between five and 10 more years in the league.

Especially with the wildcat formation being so trendy right now, Vick is almost the perfect match for that offensive scheme. If it weren't for the crimes he committed, Vick would probably be entering his ninth season in the NFL and be the idol that all running-QBs would look up too for guidance.

The cannon for a passing arm is probably still there, something that a lot of people don't even realize he ever had. I watched him air it out against Tom Brady of the Patriots, going blow for blow with one of the best QBs in NFL history through the air.

The lack of hits over the past two years, minus perhaps a few shank wounds and some rectal damage, will also help to make him a more attractive option. As long as he can still run and juke like the Vick we have all seen breaking Troy Polamalu's ankles, he will continue to have my support in regards to playing in the NFL.

If you still have any concerns or doubts about Vick's possible return to the NFL, I suggest you just take it with a few grains of salt.

Just remember that Donte Stallworth of the Browns is about to go to court over DUI and Manslaughter charges, Pacman Jones, previously of the Cowboys, was suspended for an entire season for assault and weapon charges and even my favorite player of all time, Ray Lewis of the Ravens, was charged with double homicide at one point in his career.

Jamal Lewis of the Browns was convicted and served time for, in my opinion, a bogus charge of federal cocaine trafficking. Chris Henry of the Bengals will probably never go an entire season without getting at least one new charge.

Even NFL greats like Joe Namath, famous for winning Super Bowl VII, were involved with gambling while playing for the NFL.

In summary, Michael Vick is not the arch-villain he is made out to be. He is not the first NFL player to have committed a serious crime nor is he the first to have been imprisoned and/or suspended for an extended period of time.

In my opinion, he has paid his debt to society, has done all the right things since his arrest and is now starting from scratch since he's pretty much bankrupt.

If you need any more reasoning to show that he deserves at least one more chance to be a solid, stand-up citizen and NFL player, just go to any search engine, look up his career statistics and prepare to be amazed.

All he does, at least on the playing field, is win.

Career Statistics for Michael Vick:

1. Games played: 74

2. Passes completed/Completion %: 930, 53.8%

3. Passing yards/yards per att: 11505, 6.7

4. Passing TDs/INT: 71, 52

5. Rushing yards/yards per att: 3859, 7.3

6. Rushing TDs: 21 

7. Fumbles/Fumbles lost: 55, 27

[These kind of stats are incredible for a running QB. Combining for 92 total TDs and only 52 INT is almost a 2-1 ratio over the course of 6 seasons, averaging 15.33 touchdowns/year vs. 8.66 interceptions/year. To put that in perspective, current Buffalo starting-QB, Trent Edwards, is averaging 10.5 touchdowns/year vs. 9 interceptions/year.

I am sure someone, may it be Buffalo, Denver, Carolina, Tampa Bay, San Francisco or some other team with questions at the QB position, will be glad to take on the risks and rewards of signing Michael Vick.]

-Michael, Wong_83@hotmail.com, believes in Vick and his entire family and is partially biased because he has lived a number of years in Virginia. In Virginia, especially near Blacksburg, the Vick family is still considered a hometown hero, even if the PETA activists are probably going to assassinate him someday.

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