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Vick mentor Dungy says QB's NFL options probably will be limited

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- Retired NFL coach Tony Dungy believes Michael Vick will be back in the league this season, maybe even this week. But Dungy still isn't saying where the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback will land -- or how many teams are interested.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Dungy said Vick will work from a small list of teams because many don't want to sign the quarterback and risk a potential backlash from fans.

"It's a complex issue," Dungy said from his home in Tampa, Fla. "You have to get past the possible reaction of fans, and it has to be a team that has an opening and has (salary) cap room. I think Indianapolis would be a great place for him to develop as a person, but he's not a fit with that offense. It's going to be a lot like that."

Dungy has been involved with prison ministries for years and now serves as Vick's personal mentor.

Vick, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2001, once was the highest-paid player in football. But he hasn't played since 2006 when his career came tumbling down. He was convicted in August 2007 of conspiracy and running a dogfighting operation, sentenced to 23 months in federal prison and indefinitely suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

But after Vick served his time and was released from home confinement July 20, Goodell conditionally lifted the quarterback's suspension -- allowing him to sign with a team.

So far, there have been no takers, but that could change.

"We're very optimistic, and it's a matter of when, not if," said Joel Segal, Vick's agent. "Michael is very excited about that."

Segal said there was no timetable for a decision to sign with a team.

In the meantime, Vick is attempting to revive his image with a series of appearances. He flew to Chicago for a Wednesday event hosted by the Humane Society of the United States. Vick also spoke to a small crowd Saturday near Atlanta, explaining to attendees that what he did was wrong.

On Tuesday, Vick spoke to basketball campers at Hampton University in Virginia, where he now lives, telling the children to use his story as an example of why they need to make better decisions.

Dungy, who retired in January as the winningest coach in Colts history and left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the same title for that franchise after the 2001 season, has counseled Vick throughout the process. Dungy met with Vick in prison and has been in regular contact with the quarterback since Goodell's decision.

And Dungy is convinced that Vick will continue making goodwill appearances even if he returns to the NFL.

"What we've talked about is how you balance this when you do get back to playing," Dungy said. "I said, 'You've got to carve out time for what's important.' I think he'll do that. I think he feels like his decisions let some of his fans down and he wants to make that right."

But where will Vick go? Segal declined to say which teams are interested in Vick. Dungy wouldn't divulge which coaches he has spoken with, only saying that his contact list is longer than the six NFL teams that haven't publicly ruled out signing the quarterback.

Chat: Wyche on Vick

"I have been told, by someone with the Panthers, that Mike Vick will not be playing there. I think it actually would be a good fit, but it ain't gonna happen -- from what I was told."

"I've talked to a lot of people and a bunch of coaches who have said, 'If it was up to me, we'd pursue it,'" Dungy said. "But this organization can't pursue it. That's how it's going to be."

Dungy also is promoting a movie intended to help high school coaches, athletes and their families cope with the pressures of sports and life. Topics include weight training, supplements, drug and alcohol abuse, decision-making on and off the field and how to deal with recruiting.

Though Dungy isn't giving any hints about where Vick will go, the coach believes the quarterback will be with a new team before the movie's release date, Aug. 25.

"He's talked to a lot of people, and I don't know why I say this, but I think something will happen this week," Dungy said. "All you need is that one team. That is our prayer -- that he finds that one team and that he finds the best opportunity to make it work."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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