Vick still feeling backlash
Since his release from prison in 2009, Michael Vick’s rehabilitation has taken place slowly and steadily. He apologized for his dogfighting past and took up the cause of animal welfare. He has been welcomed back into the NFL and onto television sets.
But for many fans, the Pro Bowl evidently is a step too far. As of Thursday afternoon, more than 500,000 people had signed a Change.org petition demanding that Vick be removed as an honorary captain of the Pro Bowl in late January. Another petition, with more than 300,000 signatures, demands the same thing and yet another, which has more than 100,000 signatures, urges sponsors to back out of the Pro Bowl until it drops Vick.
During remarks at the close of this week’s owners meetings outside Dallas, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell weighed in, expressing his support for Vick and suggesting that, despite the outpouring, Vick’s status would not change.
“Over the last nine years or so, I’ve supported Michael and his, I think, recognition of the mistake that he made,” Goodell said. “He’s paid every price for that. He has been accountable for it. He has worked aggressively with the Humane Society and other institutions to deal with animal rights and to make sure people don’t make the same mistake he made. And I admire that. I know that there are people out there who will never forgive him. He knows that. But I think this is a young man that has really taken his life in a positive direction, and we support that.”
“Just saw this on Facebook and was absolutely disgusted,” one poster, named Joanna Lind, wrote on the website after seeing the Pro Bowl announcement. “When is the NFL going to take any responsibility for the behavior of its current and former players? To honor a man who had zero regard for animals is unacceptable, and I would like your help to make sure he is not honored at the 2020 NFL Pro Bowl.”
Former players charged: The Justice Department charged 10 former NFL players with defrauding a health care program for retired players of nearly $4 million, according to court documents. The Department also said it intends to file charges against two other players as well.
After an FBI investigation, the Justice Department filed charges Wednesday morning in the Eastern District of Kentucky against Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Frederick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter, Etric Pruitt, Clinton Portis and Carlos Rogers.
The government also intends to charge former NFL wide receivers Joe Horn and Reche Caldwell with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
The players allegedly submitted false claims to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan for reimbursement for medical equipment — such as hyperbaric chambers, cryotherapy machines and ultrasound machines — costing between $40,000 and $50,000. The players charged recruited others into their scheme by offering to submit false claims in exchange for “kickbacks” and bribes that ranged up $10,000, according to the indictments. The players fabricated documents, including invoices and prescriptions, to execute the plan, according to the indictments.
Extra points: Giants rookie QB Daniel Jones was limited in practice for the second straight workout, increasing the likelihood two-time Super Bowl Eli Manning will start this weekend. Jones missed Monday night’s loss in Philadelphia with a sprained right ankle. “Just like any injury, it’s a process to come back,” said Shurmur, who said he could wait until game day to choose his starter . ... The Eagles placed WR Alshon Jeffery on injured reserve with a foot injury after he left Monday night’s game against the Giants. WR Robert Davis was called up from the practice squad . ... Jaguars QB coach Scott Milanovich returned to the CFL as head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos. Milanovich succeeds Jason Maas, who was fired after the Eskimos finished fourth in the West Division last season with an 8-10 record . ... The Lions put DT Da’Shawn Hand on IR with an ankle injury.
Former quarterback Michael Vick is a honorary captain for the 2020 Pro Bowl.