Vick's risk ultimately might outweigh reward for NFL owners

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank believes his suspended quarterback, Michael Vick, has paid a heavy price for his dogfighting conviction and deserves a second chance.

However, that second chance won't come in Atlanta.

"We have made it clear that Michael won't be playing for us again," Blank said Wednesday, the final day of the NFL Spring Meeting.

Several NFL owners and team officials at the meetings echoed Blank's view that Vick should be offered another opportunity to play, but they, too, say they aren't interested in making a play for the former Pro Bowl quarterback.

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Michael Vick leaves that Leavenworth, Kan., penitentiary minus an absolute get-out-of-jail-free card. His past is severe. His present is binding. His future is unknown, according to Thomas George. **More ...**

"We're not really involved or interested with our quarterback situation," Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said. "Not only with Peyton (Manning) but with (backup) Jim Sorgi -- and drafting a quarterback (Curtis Painter) from Purdue. We're just not in the quarterback market."

No knock on Sorgi, but the fact that a team feels more comfortable with him instead of Vick might say something about how owners feel about potentially bringing Vick on board.

One owner, who said his team isn't interested in Vick, added that he believes someone eventually will sign the troubled quarterback, should he be reinstated to the NFL after being indefinitely suspended shortly after pleading guilty to running an interstate dogfighting ring in Surry County, Va., in 2007.

Whether any owner is willing to take a chance on Vick is one of the biggest questions about his future in the NFL.

There are general managers and coaches who would sign Vick right away, albeit at a smallish salary and, initially, on a short-term deal. Some view Vick solely as a quarterback. Others want to see if his time away from the game might make that a difficult re-start.

But will an owner who signs the checks, who could be threatened to lose sponsorships and fans by signing a player who acknowledged doing "heinous" acts to dogs, have the backbone to deal with what Vick will bring, good or bad?

Blank was that owner once. He saw a lot of the money he made when Vick was must-watch football fly out of his pockets as season tickets dwindled and disenchanted fans stopped buying merchandise after the quarterback admitted to fighting and killing dogs.

Blank took PR hit after PR hit with amazing grace. Worse, his feelings were hurt because he loved Vick like a son -- and paid him like a top executive.

Blank said he couldn't predict the backlash -- if any -- that another owner would face if he signed Vick. Vick could diminish the damage by spending the next few months showing the world that he deserves a second shot.

An owner must "satisfy himself or herself that Michael, whether or not he's a different person than he was in December 2006 -- the last time he played a game in the NFL -- and whether or not he's surrounding himself in an environment that's going to allow him to be a productive person and a productive player and a productive team member," Blank said.

Blank repeatedly stressed that Vick has to change his inner circle, people whom the Falcons' owner believes steered his quarterback into trouble. Vick has to accept the blame for his decisions, but if he wants to show NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and team owners that he is a different person, he has to ditch the posse and listen to people who want to help him.

A former teammate, who spoke to Vick while he was imprisoned in Leavenworth, Kan., said Vick admitted it would be hard to distance himself from people whom he credits for helping him make it to the NFL. But hard decisions have to be made if Vick wants to play in the NFL again.

Goodell has to make a tough call as to whether he will allow Vick, who lied to the commissioner's face about the dogfighting allegations in 2006, to play again in the NFL. Goodell isn't viewed as a punitive person. He said during a press conference at the meetings Tuesday that he would listen to people who might add insight to Vick's sincerity to grow from the misery he has caused.

Blank, who said he corresponded with Vick through letters while the quarterback was in jail, and former Colts coach Tony Dungy, who recently met with Vick, could be summoned as character witnesses. Blank said he'd be a willing contributor.

"(Dungy) is one of those guys who has expectations of people, and if they're going in the right direction, he'll get behind you," Irsay said. "If not, he won't. He's not someone who would shy away from saying, 'Nope, I don't think someone is deserving of this opportunity because they haven't changed.' "

Vick has roughly two months to prove himself. He will finish his 23-month jail sentence under home confinement in Hampton, Va. Vick is going back to the comfort of his own home, but he's also going back to where he grew up and where the same people he grew up with still reside.

Vick is beloved in Hampton Roads, an area that has produced athletic standouts such as Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning, Bruce Smith, Pernell Whitaker, DeAngelo Hall and a wealth of others. The trappings of Vick's past will be staring right at him.

If Vick wants to play in the NFL, he has to stare right back and make himself a constructive member of the community and not just a football hero.

Vick already has engaged in conversations about working with the Humane Society. He's also expected to work 40 hours per week on a construction job. People close to him say Vick will keep a very low profile, something he had done in the past anyway. At some point, Vick will begin working with a trainer to get back in shape, but that isn't his priority, nor should it be.

"Whether or not Michael shows remorse goes beyond words and how he lives," Blank said. "Clearly, based on what happened over a number of years, there were a lot of issues, a lot that Michael has to take responsibility for. And I believe he has."

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