Michael Vick Released by Atlanta Falcons: At Long Last

Scott MillerCorrespondent IJune 12, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 31:  Michael Vick #7 of the Atlanta Falcons leaves the game in the third quarter during NFL action against the Philadelphia Eagles December 31, 2006 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

After six years, two playoff appearances, three Pro Bowls, $60 million, and 23 months in prison, Michael Vick has been formally released by the Atlanta Falcons.

The former No. 1 overall pick signed a 10-year, $130 million contract in 2004.

Vick’s release ultimately removes the Atlanta Falcons from further Vick-related headlines as he continues to search for a job in the NFL (pending his reinstatement).

Before the 2006 season, Vick was arrested in connection with a Virginia dogfighting ring that he had helped finance and operate. He was sentenced to nearly two years in federal prison.

The Falcons maintained Vick’s contractual rights throughout the messy ordeal, hoping to eventually trade the multitalented quarterback.

The high price tag and constant national media coverage made Vick a less than attractive trade candidate, ultimately leading to his outright release this morning.

For six years, Michael Vick was the beloved face of the Falcons' franchise.

His jersey was a top seller, as his explosive athleticism was continually displayed in SportsCenter highlight reels. Though his quarterbacking ability was commonly questioned, there was no doubting his ability to bring excitement to the game.

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The Atlanta Falcons had their first superstar, and the fans lived and died with his every move—but in 2007 he nearly killed the franchise.

Just two years removed from the NFC Championship Game, the Falcons lost their star quarterback, then their coach, and nearly their entire fanbase.

Saved by the masterful work by Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith, the Falcons quickly bounced back to prominence as one of the premier teams in the league. The fans deserved as much after pouring their heart and soul into the faded star.

The city of Atlanta will be forever linked to the sordid life of Vick. How he lied to the franchise and turned his back on the city will not soon be forgotten. Releasing him relieves the stress of having to affiliate with the ex-convict anymore.

It’s "free agent Michael Vick" now.

He is no one’s property—no one’s liability. Whichever team decides to give him a chance will do so with caution.

While the Falcons football team may be in a better place now than it was at its peak under Vick, it will take a long time to repair the damage. New players and draft picks will be met with suspicion, big money contracts faced with scrutiny.

The fans will be wary of trusting their players again.

The downfall of Vick nearly destroyed one of the NFL’s top young teams on the rise. The way he deceived and used the city of Atlanta tarnished his legacy, along with that of team owner Arthur Blank.

As last season has shown, success can prove a useful diversion from the failures of the past. Hopefully they can keep it up, because if 2009 ends in a losing season, the last thing anyone wants to think about is whether this team would have done better with Vick under center.

With his release, let us hope that this is the last sentence that the Atlanta Falcons and Vick ever share.

Scott Miller is the creator of www.DirtySouthSports.com and also covers the Falcons for www.NFLTouchdown.com