Tampa – There are 32 teams in the NFL trying to deal with one of the touchiest topics in sports history.
What to do about Michael Vick?
Everyone knows the Michael Vick story. He raised and paid for dog fighting, got busted, and spent more than a year at Leavenworth. Now he’s under house arrest and hoping for an owner to acknowledge that Vick is repentant, that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell believes his story or remorse, and that Vick can return to the NFL.
Thirty-two teams are considering Vick as a possibility. Already, according to sources at ESPN, four NFL coaches have already started pleading with their owners to sign Vick. Also, according to ESPN, all four owners said no.
Owners, the source said, were afraid of dealing with fan backlash and PETA in an atmosphere when ticket sales are falling all over the NFL.
That brings up Tampa Bay. The Bucs have never shied away from bringing in miscreants. Darrell Russell was signed for a brief time after being found guilty seven times for substance abuse. He also was accused in 2002 of videotaping the rape of a woman who had been drugged with GHB.
Current tight end Jeramy Stevens has been arrested so many times for heinous crimes that there’s hardly enough room to print them all.
The Bucs have become the new Oakland Raiders, many would say. SO, right or wrong, Bucs fans have to wonder whether or not Vick is a good fit.
There’s enough interest in Vick that, if Goodell reinstates him, he will be playing somewhere in the NFL in 2009. Tampa Bay would be near the top of the list. First, the Bucs have plenty of room under the salary cap and Vick, who declared bankruptcy last year, might be willing to play for scraps.
Second, he’d be a good fit. No one on his former team, the Atlanta Falcons, according to sources at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ever accused Vick of being anything but a strong leader and a good teammate. He wouldn’t be a new Derrick Brooks or Warrick Dunn, but he knows how to lead unlike the current stable of Bucs quarterbacks.
Third, Vick would bring an option to an offense that simply doesn’t have many options. Luke McCown, currently at the top of the Bucs quarterback depth chart, is a drop back passer with few receivers and a limited running game.
Vick would bring options just by lining up in the backfield behind McCown. The Bucs could go the wildcat offense and let Vick throw the ball a few times a game, he would be a viable alternate at running back, someone who could catch the ball out of the backfield, and he could also be a special teams returner, someone like Chicago’s Devin Hester.
Reports are that Vick worked out hard during his time away from the NFL and there are few players in the league with his natural ability. Vick would give the Bucs an all-purpose player unlike anyone in franchise history.
That is, if the Bucs can take the public relations hit from the fans who are already showing up as pewter-colored seats at late season games. The Bucs have rolled the dice before on miscreants and Stevens is still in town. There have been others and the Bucs have held their noses and gone ahead with them.
Vick isn’t a quarterback, but the options he could give to the Bucs are endless when compared to what they have now. Plus, he’s only 28 with limited wear and tear after two years away.
It’s a tough call but one that general manager Mark Dominick will have to consider along with 31 other NFL teams. Vick is going somewhere and he is talented with a lot to prove.
And, in the NFL, as the Bucs have proven, everyone deserves a second chance.
LAST SECOND SHOT: I ran into former Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, now the defensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee at the Tampa Gaither High School football jamboree on Friday.
He’s doing fine and, although he didn’t want to get into details, he must have been looking at Tampa Hillsborough quarterback Taurien Austin who suffered a hairline fracture to his left leg on the fourth play of the meaningless game.
Kiffin spent most of the game signing autographs. He said he loved his time in Tampa but it was time to move on. He’ll be helping his son, Lane Kiffen who took on the head coaching spot with the Vols.
He had nothing but great words to say for new Bucs head coach Raheem Morris, the defensive back coach who helped perfect Kiffen’s Tampa Two defense.