Don’t count on Vick play­ing again

For­mer star quar­ter­back sus­pended

The Covington News - - SPORTS - By Dave Gold­berg

“E ven if you per­son­ally did not place bets, as you con­tend, your ac­tions in fund­ing the bet­ting and your as­so­ci­a­tion with il­le­gal gam­bling both vi­o­late the terms of your NFL player con­tract and ex­pose you to cor­rupt­ing in­flu­ences in dero­ga­tion of one of the most fun­da­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of an NFL player.”

— Roger Good­ell NFL Com­mis­sioner, in a let­ter to Michael Vick

ac­knowl­edg­ment that he bankrolled gam­bling on the dog­fights is even more se­ri­ous. If any­thing ter­ri­fies the folks who run sports, it’s gam­bling. Wit­ness the prob­lems for the NBA with the ad­mis­sion by a rogue ref­eree that he bet on games.

Dur­ing his year in of­fice, Good­ell has been por­trayed as a hard-line guy, quick to crack down on any player who breaks the law. Those who think that way point to the sus­pen­sions: a year for Adam “Pacman Jones; eight games each for Chris Henry and Tank John­son. And now an in­def­i­nite sus­pen­sion for Vick.

How­ever, he tem­pered those sus­pen­sions by hold­ing out the prospect of a re­duc­tion if the play­ers in­volved be­haved well.

More­over, those who have known him dur­ing his more than two decades work­ing his way up the ranks in the NFL re­gard him as a com­pas­sion­ate man who is not afraid to steer away from con­ven­tional wis­dom. He keeps in a prom­i­nent place in his of­fice a pic­ture of his fa­ther, the late Charles Good­ell, who as a U.S. sen­a­tor op­posed the Viet­nam War, earned the en­mity of the Nixon Ad­min­is­tra­tion and lost his seat be­cause of it.

If there’s a par­al­lel be­tween fa­ther and son, it’s com­pas­sion. In Roger Good­ell’s case, com­pas­sion (and dis­gust) at the bru­tal treat­ment of ca­nines.

But there’s an­other el­e­ment,

NEW YORK — Michael Vick’s plea agree­ment and Roger Good­ell’s de­ci­sion Fri­day to sus­pend the At­lanta quar­ter­back in­def­i­nitely add up to this: It’s bet­ter than 5050 that Vick will never play in the NFL again.

Vick might be out of jail in time for the 2008 or 2009 sea­sons. But the NFL com­mis­sioner made it clear that Vick’s in­volve­ment in a dog­fight­ing ring and bankrolling that op­er­a­tion were far too rep­re­hen­si­ble for a sim­ple post-prison “you’ve served your time, you can go back on the field now.”

So Vick misses 2007 and likely will spend at least a por­tion of 2008 in­car­cer­ated. He is ex­pected to get at least a year and per­haps more from U.S. Dis­trict Judge Henry E. Hud­son when he is sen­tenced.

Next sea­son? For­get it. Good­ell won’t al­low it.

“Your ad­mit­ted con­duct was not only il­le­gal, but also cruel and rep­re­hen­si­ble,” Good­ell wrote in the let­ter sus­pend­ing Vick. “Your team, the NFL, and NFL fans have all been hurt by your ac­tions.”

That cov­ers the dog­fight­ing part — the part that riled up an­i­mal-rights groups and oth­ers.

In court pa­pers filed in Rich­mond, Va., on Fri­day, Vick ad­mit­ted that six to eight dogs not wor­thy of the pit were killed “as a re­sult of the col­lec­tive ef­forts” of him­self and two co-de­fen­dants. The method of killing in­cluded drown­ing and hang­ing.

To the NFL, Vick’s too. When Good­ell asked Vick about his in­volve­ment in dog­fight­ing dur­ing the NFL draft in April, Vick said in ef­fect, “no way.” In the last month, as more and more in­for­ma­tion about Vick’s true in­volve­ment came out, Good­ell seethed.

That raises the ques­tion of whether com­pas­sion or the com­mis­sioner’s anger about be­ing lied to comes into play when Vick is re­leased from prison.

Don’t go with com­pas­sion. Go with what is clearly wide­spread re­vul­sion about the death of dogs.

Yes, there was or­ga­nized pres­sure on the NFL from an­i­mal-rights groups as soon as the al­le­ga­tions of dog­fight­ing be­came known. But the pub­lic re­ac­tion was just as sharp.

What will ag­gra­vate Vick’s sit­u­a­tion when and if Good­ell clears him to play is that the pub­lic clamor will re­main — cen­tered on any team that even thinks of sign­ing Vick, who clearly has seen his last game in At­lanta.

Be­yond that, he will be 30 years old, his skills eroded by three years of in­ac­tiv­ity. Yes, he will try to keep him­self in shape. But few play­ers come back in the NFL af­ter miss­ing three years, es­pe­cially play­ers who de­pend on speed and quick­ness.

Maybe some­one will take a chance (Oak­land?). And maybe Vick will re­turn with some of his skills in­tact.

But it’s a big maybe.

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