Now that Michael Vick has finished a 23-month federal sentence for dogfighting, he shouldn't have to wait too much longer to return to the NFL, Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin said Monday.
"The law has spoken and spoken severely," Irvin told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "If the commissioner says he's not allowed back in, then how is that fair?"
To emphasize his point, Irvin compared the NFL's indefinite suspensions of Vick and Cleveland Browns receiver Donte' Stallworth. While Vick was punished for nearly two years, Stallworth served 24 days of a 30-day jail sentence for pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter.
"The law spoke with Donte', but he's already been in and out of jail," said Irvin, who also appeared on NFL Network's NFL Total Access on Monday. "There still has to be a penalty with Donte' when it comes to the NFL. ... Michael Vick has already served his penalty."
Irvin understands Stallworth's plight because something similar happened to him. In 1996, Irvin pleaded no contest to drug charges and avoided any jail time, but he still was suspended for five games.
Vick must convince NFL commissioner Roger Goodell of his readiness to return. Irvin said there should be a series of well-publicized meetings and, if all goes well, the suspension should be lifted a few weeks before the regular season opens.
"I don't think it should happen right away because you don't want to taint the beginning of the football season with the comeback of Michael Vick," said Irvin, who hosts a radio show in Dallas and a reality television show that concluded Monday night. "Right now you've got the comeback of Brett Favre, and you've got the comeback of Tom Brady. You've got to allow that stuff time to pass through. Then, sometime in mid-August, then you work Michael Vick in."
Vick will need to find a team because the Atlanta Falcons let him go in June. Irvin suggested that Vick would fit in great as a Wildcat specialist for the New England Patriots, working under the watchful eye of coach Bill Belichick.
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"For Michael Vick's sake, he needs to be on a strong team with strong leadership ability -- a Belichick team, a (Bill) Parcells team," Irvin said, noting that wide receiver Randy Moss hasn't drawn many bad headlines since he began playing for Belichick in New England.
As for that Wildcat role, Irvin said Belichick likely will be hatching something like that anyway to spring on the Miami Dolphins in revenge for their success with the Wildcat against the Patriots last season.
"Belichick is not the kind of guy who says, 'You got me. I'll forget it.'" Irvin said. "How better to get back at them than to split Tom Brady out wide and let Michael Vick take the snap?"
Irvin also expects Vick to still be elusive -- maybe not as much as before but still better than anyone else.
"Michael Vick was 10 steps ahead of every quarterback when it came to running the ball. Maybe now he's only three steps ahead," Irvin said. "He's still enormously different."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press