Michael Vick Released From Prison to Begin Home Confinement

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 21, 2009

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., May 20 -- As Michael Vick left a federal prison in Kansas on Wednesday to travel east to complete his 23-month sentence in home confinement in Virginia, those within the NFL as well as those who follow it were wondering whether the former quarterback will be able to return to the sport.

There were no definitive answers to that question even at a meeting of NFL owners, the people who ultimately will decide whether Vick plays in the league again.

"There's no question Michael has paid his debt to society, obviously," Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in a corridor of the beachside hotel at which the owners' meetings were held. "But beyond that, the commissioner has to decide whether or not Michael, based on his view, has not only the personal remorse but has conducted himself, not only personally but in who's he associating with, in a way that is going to allow him to be a player in the NFL and represent our league well. That's the decision that the commissioner will make."

Vick departed federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., in the early morning and was en route to Hampton, Va., for his home confinement for the final two months of his sentence for his role in a dogfighting operation in Virginia. According to the Associated Press, Vick was accompanied by his fiancee and members of a security team and was making a 19-hour drive to Virginia, where he's scheduled to report to a probation officer Friday in Norfolk.

He is to work a construction job while he awaits word from the NFL about whether he will be reinstated for the upcoming season. He remains on indefinite suspension by the league, pending a decision by Commissioner Roger Goodell about his playing status.

Goodell has said repeatedly, most recently here Tuesday, that he will meet with Vick after the legal process is completed and Vick must demonstrate genuine remorse to be reinstated.

Goodell was asked Wednesday about the issue and said: "I think I've answered this question. I don't know what else I can add. Once he's concluded that, I will meet with him and I will make a judgment based on what he tells me and what I'm able to determine from speaking to others and my own background check on this, and make a determination at the right time."

Goodell indicated that he would accept input from others about the situation. Former NFL coach Tony Dungy recently met with Vick in prison. Goodell said Tuesday that he'd traded phone messages with Dungy but hadn't spoken to the retired coach about his meeting with Vick.

Dungy was quoted after his meeting with Vick as saying that Vick simply wants another chance. Colts owner Jim Irsay said Wednesday that his former coach's opinion about Vick perhaps could persuade others within the league.

"Tony is not a pushover," Irsay said. "He has certain expectations."

Vick remains under contract to the Falcons, but Blank has indicated that the team doesn't want Vick back. Blank reiterated that Wednesday. The club reached the playoffs last season with a standout rookie, Matt Ryan, playing Vick's old position.

The Falcons announced earlier in the offseason that they would attempt to trade Vick. No trade has been completed, leading some in the league to assume that Atlanta will release Vick at some point. Blank said the Falcons will make a decision "at the time that we think is correct."

There has been some speculation that Vick could be headed to the upstart United Football League. Blank said he assumes that Vick's preference is to return to the NFL. But it's unclear if any team will sign Vick even if he's reinstated by Goodell and released by the Falcons.

"I think an owner would have to go through the same process that the commissioner would and satisfy himself or herself that Michael is -- it goes beyond paying the price because clearly he's done that," Blank said. It's "whether or not he's a different person than he was back in December of 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 in the league."

Houston Texans owner Robert McNair said Wednesday: "I think it's no different than considering anyone else you have to look at. You have to look at the impact on the team, how he's received by his teammates, how he's received by the fans. . . . I think you'd want to be very careful about it, not just this situation but any number of situations. The last thing you want to do is offend your fans. Without them, we have nothing."

Blank said he traded letters with Vick while Vick was imprisoned, and added: "I've indicated that I would do anything that I could do on a personal level that would be constructive and productive for Michael, and that still hasn't changed."

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