Despite an unfortunate dark spot in his past and after serving 18 months in prison because of it, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for Michael Vick.
Last week, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Vick as their backup quarterback, two years after he was sentenced to prison for his role in financing an illegal dog-fighting ring.
Many argued Vick’s sentence was the beginning of the end of his extremely notable football career.
Others continue to say he should be shunned for his past brutal treatment of dogs.
Yet, some say there’s hope, that through it all, Vick’s two-year exile from professional football and his life-changing jail time experience could be a new beginning that has really turned his life around forever.
Referring to Vick’s new position, Eagles coach Andy Ried said he’s a believer that as long as people go through the right process, they deserve a second chance.
Vick was reinstated into the National Football League last month when his sentence formally ended and he was released from federal custody. He began practice immediately and could play in the final two preseason games.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will decide by the sixth week of the season when and if Vick can play in the regular-season. Vick agreed to a one-year contract, with a one-year option, allowing him to get reacquainted and reacclimated to the league.
Donavan McNabb, starting quarterback for the Eagles is an old friend and supporter of Vick. McNabb said he lobbied to get Vick on the team.
“I believe in second chances and what better place to get a second chance than here with this groups of guys,” said McNabb to the New York Times. “We had the opportunity to add another weapon to our offense.”
Vick, 29, will most likely be used as a backup perhaps in small package of plays in order to keep the opposing defense guessing in wild-style formats. Vicks scrambling technique and ability to run or pass the ball is an unpredictable talent that will be taken advantage of.
Eagles owner, Jeffrey Lurie who calls himself an “extreme dog lover” called what Vick did cruel and a complete disregard for any definition of human decency. However, Lurie said he’s convinced that Vick could provide more than just a dynamic element to his offense.
Vick has completely transformed his life and now he could complete what has become his new mission: to help save more animals than he helped harmed, said Lurie.
Talking to reporters in his first news conference since his conviction, Vick said his past with dog-fighting was wrong, unethical and inhumane.
“Our country is a country of second chances,” said Vick. “I paid my dues to society. I spent two years in prison. Away from my fiancée. Away from my two kids. That was a humbling experience. I can’t explain how deeply hurt and how sorry I was, once everything went down and I had to explain to my kids what had happened. And it was because of Daddy’s fault. I asked them for a second chance to be a better father, to do the right things and show them the way.”
Vick said the last two years have given him time to re-evaluate his life, mature as an individual and fully understand the terrible mistakes he has made in the past and what type of life he must now lead moving forward.
Vick continued, “I’m just glad I got the opportunity and have second chance. I won’t disappoint.”
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States met with Vick, at Vick’s request, while he was in prison. The two plan to work together on a program aimed at eradicating dog-fighting among urban teenagers.
“He said this experience has been a trauma and he’s changed forever,” Pacelle wrote on the Humane Society’s Web site. “And he said he wants to show the American public that he is committed to helping combat this problem. He asked for an opportunity to help. I want to give him that opportunity. If he makes the most of it, and demonstrates a sincere, long-term commitment to the task, then it may prove to be a tipping point in our campaign to eradicate dog-fighting,” said Pacelle.
Pacelle said dog-fighting is a “culturally complex problem” prevalent among poor urban teenagers who fail to see the greater harm in it.
“For me, it’s not about Michael Vick and providing endless punitive treatment. It’s about stopping other young people from going down the road Vick took,” said Pacelle.
Prior to his arrest Vick was the star quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons. In 2006, he ran for 1,039 yards. He was a first round draft pick after a standout career at Virginia Tech before becoming the starting quarterback with the Falcons in 2002. He was named to the Pro Bowl three times.
In 2007 Vick and three other men were indicted on federal felony charges for sponsoring illegal dog-fighting, gambling on fights and permitting acts of cruelty against animals on his property in Surry, Va.
Progressive sport’s writer Dave Zirin argues that much of the negative feedback being reported recently about how “bad” and “ugly” Vick’s past is, and how he should not be granted any sympathy, is part of bigger social and even racial problem.
Zirin argues that Vick’s unfortunate past and his second chance to make good today is part of a deeper stereotype when it comes to former inmates who are branded for life upon their release. The problem is political and highlights the plethora of inequities facing millions trapped in the criminal justice system, says Zirin.
“The very political forces—and they are bipartisan—that have made the U.S. the prison capital of the world are at work in the saga of Michael Vick,” writes Zirin. “To insist that he deserves another chance is to admit that all ex-prisoners deserve to be seen as human beings and not simply statistics. For African Americans, 9.2 percent of whom are behind bars, the urgency is even greater.”
Zirin notes, “If Michael Vick can’t get a shot at redemption, if he is forever tainted, then where does that leave the millions still under the thumb of Prison USA? It’s time for Michael Vick to get his second chance, for everyone who never even got a first.”