By Jason Cole, Yahoo! Sports
August 20, 2007
While many people in and around the NFL are wondering if Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick ever will play in the league again, former Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf is wondering why not.
"If he pays his debt to society, why shouldn't he get another chance?" asked Wolf, who was the engineer of Green Bay's Super Bowl championship team in the 1996 season. "Maybe I don't understand something in all of this, but you're supposed to get a second chance in this country."
However, according to interviews with several NFL executives, Wolf is in the minority. Four other general managers and/or other personnel executives said they thought a return by Vick would be problematic.
"Yeah, that's true, but it's a different time, a different place, a different set of circumstances," said a general manager who asked not to be identified.
On Monday, Vick's attorney Billy Martin announced that the quarterback will plead guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges. Conditions of the terms are unknown, but Vick faces up to five years in prison.
The most damning evidence made public against Vick came Friday when co-defendants Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips also pleaded guilty. In their plea, Peace and Phillips admitted to killing eight dogs in April at Vick's property in Virginia and said that Vick participated in the death of the animals. The animals were destroyed because they failed to perform well enough in testing to see if they were "game" enough to be good fighters.
"Every time you read about this story, it makes you want to take a shower," another unnamed general manager said.
The Vick issue is layered with questions, such as how long he might serve in prison, how long the NFL will suspend him once he officially enters his plea Aug. 27 and whether the Falcons will go after approximately $28 million the team paid him in bonus money.
Still, the bottom line comes down to whether he'll get another chance. Adding to the complexity of the situation, said one general manager, is that Vick plays quarterback. Will some NFL team ever want a convicted animal killer and liar to be the face of a franchise?
"You're not talking about just anybody on your football team," the GM said. "You're talking about the leader of your team, the most recognizable player on your team, the guy who you normally market the team around and try to get the fans excited about.
"Do you really think you're ever going to be able to get people to put their arms around that guy again? Maybe, but I don't think I'd be able to pull it off. We're not talking about just football here. We're talking about marketing, profile, what your sponsors think."
At the same time, Wolf contended that crime is crime and that other players have been found guilty of activities seemingly just as serious.
"We've had a lot of people in this league do a lot of bad things, and they still got a chance," Wolf said. "Leonard Little killed someone (while drunk driving). Jamal Lewis went to prison (in connection to) selling drugs. Are you telling me that killing eight dogs is worse than killing a human being? … Yes, this is bad, but are you really telling me that he doesn't deserve a chance to play again when other people have committed crimes and come back?"
Then again, Wolf is an example of someone who might have the power to make it happen.
"It's going to take an owner who has big ones or a GM who has some (trophies) on his (side) to make that work," another general manager said. Since Vick still is under contract with the Falcons, executives from other teams are not allowed to talk about him from an employment standpoint.
Oakland managing general partner Al Davis and Dallas owner Jerry Jones were among those mentioned as owners who might take a chance on Vick if and when Atlanta lets him go.
"Yeah, it would have to be someone like one of those guys," a team executive said. "Just ask yourself, 'How are you going to sell that one as a GM to your owner and his wife?' "
The additional issue with Vick is that well before he got in trouble, there were concerns about whether he could become a polished quarterback. Atlanta hired coach Bobby Petrino this offseason with the goal of concluding if Vick ever would harness his impressive talent.
"The fact that he's only 27 and he's still going to be a great athlete in a year or two is going to help him, but now he's behind for two years," the GM said. "I wasn't sure how good a quarterback he was before. What's he going to be in two years?"
Jason Cole is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Monday, Aug 20, 2007 3:35 pm, EDT
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