Wed May 20 12:20pm EDT
While the discussions on the day of Vick's release from prison have largely focused on where he might play and how he can rehabilitate his image, the most pertinent football question may be whether Vick will still be able to play at a high level.
Three years is a long time, particularly when half of that stretch is spent inside a federal penitentiary. But the incarceration didn't sap Michael Vick of his abilities, just his conditioning. There's a prevailing myth that says athletes have to stay in peak physical shape all the time, but that's not necessarily true. It helps, of course, but as long as Vick dedicates himself to training, there's no reason to think he won't be able to get back to where he was two years ago. (How good Vick was two years ago is a debate for another time.)
Vick won't be the first to make a comeback to sports after a long layoff. Here are ten other athletes who made returns, some to high degrees of success:
Muhammad Ali -- The Greatest of All-Time went 43 months in between fights after getting stripped of his boxing license for evading the draft.
Lance Armstrong -- Armstrong, a seven-time Tour de France champion, is back on the bike after a three-year break. Other than the French media, nobody seems to be doubting that Lance is capable of winning his eighth this year.
Josh Hamilton -- The former No. 1 pick was out of baseball for three years while battling drug and alcohol addiction. If a guy who bottomed out while on "every drug imaginable" can get back into world-class shape, Vick coming back from 18 months in prison shouldn't be a problem.
Michael Jordan -- We're still waiting on his baseball comeback.
David Robinson -- The Admiral spent two years in the Navy after graduation before joining the San Antonio Spurs in 1989.
Monica Seles -- After her bizarre stabbing in a 1993 match, Seles was out of tennis for over two years. After her return, she won one more Grand Slam title and played for eight more years.
Roger Staubach -- In between his college career at Navy and his NFL career with the Cowboys, the Hall of Famer served a half-decade in the Armed Forces, and made his pro debut at age 27.
Mike Tyson -- Tyson provides the most obvious parallel with Vick. The one-time heavyweight champ was convicted of rape in 1992 and served three years in prison. After his release, he had memorable fights with Evander Holyfield and Lenox Lewis, but never regained the glory (or dominance) he experienced as a young fighter. This likely had less to do with his stint in prison rather than the fact that he was Mike Tyson.
Ricky Williams(notes) -- Ricky has basically missed three whole seasons during his NFL career (for retirement, suspension and injury after suspension), but never duplicated the success he had during his early days. (Not that most running backs ever do.)
Ted Williams -- Twice during his baseball career -- once at the beginning of his prime, once at the end -- the Splendid Splinter went to war as a fighter pilot. He missed almost five whole seasons due to his service.
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