Michael Vick and the Eagles: Does it Make Sense

Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb are suddenly teammates for the Eagles.
Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb are suddenly teammates for the Eagles. (Jason Reed - Reuters)
Cindy Boren
Washington Post NFL Editor
Friday, August 14, 2009; 2:30 PM

Washington Post NFL Editor Cindy Boren was online to take all your questions about Michael Vick's new deal with the Eagles, what it means for Philadelphia and the NFC East, and how the league may adjust on an ethical platform.

A transcript follows.

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Cindy Boren: Is it possible that anyone in America has no opinion on the topic of Michael Vick and his return to the NFL? What an incredible story this has been and I'm interested to hear your thoughts.


I don't forgive him: Just wanted to point out that today, while the front page of the Post does the story on how upset Vick is that he did something so stupid to jeopardize his career (instead of how sorry he is he did something so cruel and inhumane to so many dogs) there is another story buried in the metro section of the post about "Trooper", a pit-bull raised as bait for other pit bulls who was found in a dumpster, left to die.

Some people deserve second chances, so far i haven't seen any sign that he is sorry about anything other than getting caught and messing up his career. He should be giving a huge chunk of his salary to organizations that help rehabilitate the pit bulls that awful men and women like him abuse.

washingtonpost.com: Video: Dog Found in Dumpster Nursed Back to Health (Washington Post, Aug. 14)

Cindy Boren: I'm so glad you mentioned the story of Trooper. I've been following it on the local news and on The Post's website. It's truly heart-wrenching. I kept thinking how great it would be if Vick had said he'd take on the vet expenses for the dog, as well as for the dogs who were taken from his Bad Newz Kennel. He does now have a relationship with the Humane Society and we'll see what comes out of it. He's getting $1.6 million; I understand that he has a family to support, but some of that should go directly to helping animals. I'm sure that something like that is in the works. As for whether his remorse is genuine, I think it's going to take time to determine that.


Washington, D.C.: I know a lot of people wanted Vick thrown to the dogs when this first happened ... guess they got their wish.

Seriously, is there any indication his body is anywhere close to being ready for action?

Cindy Boren: The universal opinion is that he is in great physical condition, but that doesn't equate to being in football shape. Until we see him in a helmet, on a practice field, we just won't know. Check back tomorrow, about this time.


Sterling, VA: Does it appear to the press that Michael Vick has truly accepted that what he did is not publicly accepted? To me, the casual viewer, it appears that Vick was sacrificed by the NFL to appease the public. His jail time and NFL suspension appear to have been driven by a very vocal minority of society.

Granted, what he did was wrong and should not be tolerated, but I think we went overboard with the punishment. I understand that dog fighting is cruel to the dogs, but they are dogs (and I realize that this sounds callous). But let us look at the other recent announcements, a player operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated killed a man and only received a one-year suspension. This seems out of whack to me. I really hope Vick sees what he has done was wrong, but I can't help feeling that he was 'over' punished. What do you think?

Cindy Boren: Only one person truly knows what's inside Michael Vick's heart and mind. I can't tell you whether he's genuine. There were times in his press conference, during his statement, when I thought he was just saying blahblahblah. As any kid who's been in trouble knows, repeating Mom and Dad's words back to them can be a very effective device. I had that feeling when he spoke of how playing in the league is a right, not a privilege. That comes straight from Goodell's interviews and statements.

However, when Vick was answering questions, he seemed far more sincere and there were moments when the pain flashed through. I think more interviews and his actions will reveal whether he has truly accepted his position now, how far he has fallen and how lucky he is to get another chance.

As for the punishment, are you speaking of the NFL or the federal system? Had Vick not tried to weasel out of this when he was first charges, he'd have gotten a much more lenient sentence...and perhaps not even a federal one. I would not agree that Vick was overpunished; I would agree that Leonard Little and Donte Stallworth were underpunished.


Bowie, Md.: Just out of curiousity, what would get someone a lifetime ban from the NFL? It's not cruelty to animals, it's not manslaughter, nor is it shooting oneself in the leg. ... So what? I am not a Vick fan, but I am also not a Vick hater.

There is a larger question about what the NFL is about (besides playing football). I mean what is the "bright line" that says people who have ______ (fill in the blank) can't play for the NFL? Soon it will be ok to do anything and still be given a contract.

It seems like a slippery slope that Goodell is on the edge of. What's interesting is that the NFL moved from promoting teams (before free agency) to promoting players and now they have to deal with these problems. I really don't like free agency as it is currently structured, but that is a larger discussion.

Cindy Boren: The power to ban a person from the NFL rests in the hands of one person and that's the commissioner, who works for the owners. Nothing is codified; a lot depends on the variance of state and federal punishments as well as on the feelings and judgment of the commissioner.

I agree with your comment about the growing empowerment of players. Labor negotiations are going to be interesting.


Ennablers: Sterling's post is unfortunately indicative of a minority of the population: "Yeah, Vick did some bad things, but not as bad as (blank)". I agree that some offenders were under-punished, but Vick certainly wasn't over-punished. The real shame is that Vick's actions may have legitimized something that was underground- i.e., a role model in the wrongest way possible. And if you get pinched, just do a little time, talk to Oprah, and say you're sorry. Unbelievable.

Cindy Boren: It's such a universal story, though. The possibility of redemption resonates with everyone. Certainly, Andy Reid looks at Vick and sees someone who is like his sons. Tony Dungy, who lost a son, is the same. I do think this is a little more than just sniffling on Oprah.


Tony Dungy: I think Tony Dungy's involvement is an interesting and positive dynamic to this event.

Whatever you say about Michael Vick, I think that Tony Dungy's mentoring is a huge advantage for him. Without Dungy on board, I don't think he would have some of the credibility to his reinstatement.

If he is able to make a comeback and rehash his image he will owe his career and his life to that man.

Cindy Boren: Vick owes an enormous debt to Tony Dungy. If he fails, does it reflect badly on Dungy, though? I don't think so; it's an exemplary -- and huge -- task that he has taken on.


Harrisburg, Penn.: Thank you for hosting this chat, Cindy. No pun intended, but will the league be keeping Vick on a short leash (like, Pacman Jones-short) for this season? Is he on double-secret probation, and would there be more of a zero-tolerance stance on him, rather than mitigating circumstances?

I have zero sympathy, and as you pointed out, he seems to be more upset about wrecking his career than seeming remorseful. However, if the NFL is giving him a chance, I'd like to think it would be an honest one.

Thank you.

Cindy Boren: Oh, I think he may be getting another at-bat, but he's facing a two-strike count and Bob Gibson is on the hill. That's how short I think the leash is. One stumble and I think he'll be out. A lot of people think that Vick seems more upset about losing his gig than genuinely remorseful. I'm not so sure. It was pretty touching when he spoke of talking to his children about this.

I also want to digress a moment and point out that Dungy does prison ministry; he doesn't just reach out to ex-cons who have stellar football ability.


McLean, Va.: How (if at all) does this change the balance of power in the NFC East?

Cindy Boren: I liked Philly's chances before this, even with all the injuries and the usual McNabbian drama. I was reading one Philly writer this morning who mentioned how smart Andy Reid is, how he loves to draw schemes and plays on napkins and how his mind must be reeling at what he can do with Vick. It's going to be enormously interesting to watch. What will happen, though, if McNabb gets hurt (it's been known to happen), Kolb isn't the answer and ... Vick takes over at QB? Oh, my ...


La Grande, Ore.: Is his sincerity coming from the millions he stands to gain?

Cindy Boren: You'd better believe that very real possibility is something Roger Goodell pondered and that NFL psychologists and counselors tried their best to determine.


Las Vegas, Nev.: I don't like Vick and don't hate him, but I honestly cant see how he is going to fit into any team that has an established quarterback, i.e. the Eagles and McNabb. McNabb cant be happy right now, unless the Eagles told him that Vick will be used to some other capacity.

Any idea what this capacity would be? They could run a pretty sick Wildcat with Vick, McNabb and Westbrook all in the backfield, but that's not Reid's style.

I just hope the Redskins can contain him.

Cindy Boren: How on earth will McNabb/Vick dynamic play out? Well, they do go way back. When Vick was being recruited by colleges, he went to Syracuse and the guy who showed him around campus was ... Donovan McNabb. At the moment, I'm not hearing that it's an issue for McNabb, that he's grumbling behind the scenes. On the field, well, Reid's style might just change.


Fairfax, Va.: Widespread "Second Chance" headline is misapplied. A "second chance" is provided to those we believe in and trust to make it right, it makes us all human. Providing a "second chance" to the head of an ongoing, felonious enterprise involving intolerable pain and cruelty to animals who showed no remorse until caught is misapplied. Recall, this is the man who indulged in cruelty (drowning, electrocution, rape breeding) on his own property and even tried to make a buck from it while being the highest paid quarterback in the NFL. How many opportunities did he have to reconsider his actions? Many, and he did not. This man is synonymous with cruelty.

I am very disappointed in the Commissioner's ruling and the signing by Eagles management. I am a supporter of the NFL and I pay to get every game, every week on my TV but I am angry and strongly divided over continuing to support a business that would permit the return of a man synonymous with animal cruelty. Seems like the NFL went out of it's way to get him back. When did the league begin assigning mentors to trouble players? He is a grown man. His less-than-two-year sentence was an insufficient debt to society, as well.

Cindy Boren: I do believe that he deserves the chance to show that he has changed, grown and learned from the past. I wish he hadn't called it "a mistake." It was so much more than that. Maybe he'll talk more about how he has fundamentally changed, how he realizes how evil he was. I hope there's a deeper conversion. However, I don't think you can say he didn't pay a pretty steep price; he did time in a federal prison.


Morgantown, W-Va.: How in the world can you sign Michael Vick after the horrible crimes he committed? What kind of message are you sending to the youth of America? Thatit is ok to commit crimes, but if you are a good enough player you can do whatever you want, get a slap on the wrist and still play? What a terrible judgement call.

Cindy Boren: How about telling the youth of America: Look at this guy. He had more talent than any one human being should rightly have and it wasn't enough. Unless you're smart and have more in your life than just the game, you can mess it all up. I actually think it's a pretty good, cautionary example for the Y of A. Remember Mickey Mantle, dying, talking about he was no role model? That was powerful.


Washington, D.C.: There is one very important piece of information missing from this debate. I am an attorney and a law professor, and it is flatly incorrect to state that Michael Vick has paid his debt to society for his crimes. He admitted to hanging, electrocuting, drowning, and shooting dogs.

Each of those is an act of felony animal cruelty punishable by five years in prison, which is a completely separate law from the dog fighting laws. He has not served any time for his violations of the animal cruelty statute, which would likely amount to an effective life sentence. Dog fighters recently convicted under almost identical circumstances are serving sentences of 102, 98, and 48 years in prison, respectively. In other words, he completely got away with hanging, and crudely electrocuting drowning dogs.

Cindy Boren: But he served the sentence he was given, no?


The Vet, D.C.: Re: Dungy possibly looking bad from this, I think Dungy is sticking his neck out for Vick the person, not necessarily Vick the player (in terms of talent, skills, etc). If there is a character problem that arises, yes, I think that will reflect poorly on Dungy. Vick owes him big-time.

I personally am thrilled the Eagles are giving him a shot. It is a perfect situation for Vick to come back -- and you gotta know, if he survives the Philly faithful, he'll survive any criticism! Andy Reid is creative enough to put Vick in a position to succeed, the Eagles are strong enough of a franchise to withstand whatever may come, and McNabb is entrenched enough to not feel threatened (well, until week ... 10?). I am a bit surprised they are giving him $1.6 million in year one instead of a low salary, incentive-laden deal, but this seems like the best possible team situation for Vick to me.

Cindy Boren: Agreed about Dungy; Vick will owe him so much more than just his career if this reclamation project succeeds. You're like many Eagles fans I've heard from: wary, cautiously optimistic.


Anonymous: Lets say this was another profession, a banker for random example. Would a banker having committed the exact same crime not be allowed continue his profession? Having said that, he should only be allowed to resume play if he is truly remorseful.

Also, I know this has been said before and what Vick did was awful but it is hypocritical to judge him when the majority of the meat on our plates comes from slaughterhouses with conditions like the ones Vick's dogs were put under. We are blissfully ignorant as we point the finger.

Cindy Boren: When I was very little, I idolized an old family friend because he would cut canteloupe into cool shapes and entertain me with stories about life running his Mississippi River barge company. He died when I was about 10 and, a couple of years later, I made a comment to my mom about someone who'd been in prison. My mom spun around and told me that the guy I'd loved -- a very successful businessman -- had done time in the big house for car theft when he was young. So I believe in remorse and the redemptive power of hard work and that just about everyone should get a chance at an encore.


New York, N.Y.: Even as a Giants fan (Philly sucks!) I have to admit that Donovan McNabb is a classy guy and a good citizen. Do you think that the chance to be with that kind of positive influence played a role in deciding where Vick would ultimately end up.

Cindy Boren: McNabb, Reid, Lurie ... the people, the circumstances, the situation, the timing had to be just right. Make no mistake, it's going to take a supportive network to sustain this reclamation project and McNabb is a big part of that.


Arlington, Va. (Pottsville, Penn. - Hometown): As a life long Eagles fan (I'm 52) I'll be sitting out the next two seasons. I'm sorry but I totally disagree with the signing of Michael Vick. You have to understand that as an Eagles fan, we keep being told all this stuff about how Jeff Lurie idolizes Mother Theresa, Dr. King, Gandhi, etc. They even have quotes from these folks in the training facilities at the Nova Care Center - then they go and hire Vick?

And the NFL says it's a good fit because of the strong ethics of the coach and team. Did everyone miss the fact that the coach couldn't keep his own two kids out of jail? And not for doing drugs but for selling them?

Coach Reid's house was full of drugs and weapons when they searched it and this guy is going to help rehabilitate Michael Vick? What hypocrisy!

I'm out for the season - and I don't give a rat's ass how many games the end up winning. Sometimes it's not worth the cost! I'm embarrassed to call myself an Eagle fan.

Cindy Boren: Thanks for your comment!


Sterling, VA: I find many of these posts interesting. What Vick did was wrong and he was justly punished for his missteps. I really think the two year sentence seems pretty appropiate for his crime. This two year period gave Vick a lot of time for introspection and time to think about his actions and the people he surrounded himself with.

I have heard an interview with Tony Dungy, and he said that Vick is going to distance himself from the crowd that helped him to make the 'bad' decisions. I think that, if it does happen, is a telling move. It shows that Vick understands that what he did was wrong and shows that he is working to get on the right path. Hopefully he will continue on this path and work to help educate kids about making the right choices.

Cindy Boren: Conversation up here is fascinating, especially some of the comments I can't run! I tend to agree with you.


Prove it: If I may present a differing opinion, Cindy: Talk is cheap, and it's going to take more than a few "I'm sorry, I've changed" statements to make it right. Here's a question- does he still run with the same crowd? Are the 'bad' influences still there?

And since this is a grown man, not an impressionable teenager, how much can he blame it on his friends from back home? Sorry, I guess that's more than one question.

Cindy Boren: While he has said some of the right things, I agree that actions are what matter. If he's hanging with the old bad influences, that's going to have a bearing on his parole, not just on his NFL career.


Fairfax, Va.: I can't think of a better place for Vick than Philadelphia. Sold out stadium with a decent waiting list, rabidly loyal fans so long as the teams win, and the PETA picketers are not likely to get far with local fans. They'll cheer him if he and the Eagles do well, which is as much as any player can ask. If he does badly, he'll deserve the booing.

Cindy Boren: If he doesn't do well in Philly, he'll quickly find out. They booed Santa...I like Santa.


Boca Raton, Fla.: Cindy, with all due respect this is not just about dogfighting and bad judgment. I concur with the comments of the attorney! He even fought his house pets to the death. The man is a sociopath just like other serial killers.

This is a horrible example for young people who idolize sports figures!. I know this will be a nightmare for parents in explaining how this man will be idolized again!

Cindy Boren: Perhaps people shouldn't idolize sports figures. One thing I've noticed about them: they're ordinary human beings despite their talents.


New Orleans: NFL money comes from television, ticket sales and sponsors.The component at risk with the Vick signing is the corporate sponsors.

How can sponsors of Philadelphia Eagles games survive being linked to a brutal, savage dog killer? "Coca-Cola sponsors dog-fighting?"

I personally would link any sponsor of Eagles games with dog-fighting and boycott their product(s) immediately.I am not a left or right wing anything ... but I am a proud owner of three pomeranians and I know what would have happened to them at "Bad Newz Kennels"!

Cindy Boren: That's the great thing: you can boycott every product that has a deal with the NFL.


Dungy: Truth be told, Dungy lends legitimacy to the Vick reclamation project. Without his backing, Vick's landing would be way rougher than it is now. Andy's endorsement? I don't think it does as much - though he sure has experience with dealing with some of these problems in his own family, so there's that.

Cindy Boren: Thanks (it's getting late; I want to get a bunch of your comments up here).


Washington DC: I've thought a lot about the Vick case especially in comparing it to what has happened to Stallworth. It seems a major difference between Vick and Stallworth is that Stallworth made a huge mistake (granted I don't know how often Stallworth drives drunk) but it's certainly not his intention to get kill someone when he drives drunk. Vick, over a long period of time, funded a dog fighting ring and killed numerous dogs in a sick fashion. That is the main difference between in the crimes. It's the fact that Vick's crimes were over a long period of time and he knew exactly what he was doing.

Cindy Boren: Vick also initially lied about his involvement and, next thing you know, the feds stepped in. Stallworth instantly said he was sorry, quickly came to a settlement (legally and financially) and basically handled his legal problem smartly, in a manner that was straight out of the playbook. Vick keeps referring to what he did as a mistake; it was a pattern of behavior. Stallworth made a mistake. Are either or both truly remorseful? I have no idea.


Vick vs. DWI Traffic Death: The difference is that a DWI where someone is killed can be interpreted as a tragic one time case of poor judgment with horrible consequences. Vick was involved in an ongoing criminal enterprise where innocent creatures were tortured and killed, and he lied about it when confronted by the Commish.

They're definitely two different cases. Vick got off light.

Cindy Boren: Thanks.


Houston: I would just like to say there are WAY too many discussions from 1:30-2pm EST today - Hax, Pookie, Gene, you. What's a girl to do? :)

Cindy Boren: Forget those other people. That's my advice.


Woodbridge, Va.: He did the crime and he served his time. If a team is willing to hire him, he should be allowed to work for them. It's just a spectator sport.

Cindy Boren: Thanks!


Philadelphia: As an Eagles fan, I am disgusted and appalled by their organization to condone Vick's behavior. There's a petition circulation among Eagles fans to send to the ownership, and I'd encourage any Eagles fans disappointed with the move to sign it, just as I have.

washingtonpost.com: Eagles Fans Against Michael Vick (The Petition Site)

Cindy Boren: Be interesting to see what comes of this.


Washington, D.C.: Is there any way you can persuade the Redskins to host a bring-your-dog-to-the-game day this season?

Cindy Boren: The Eagles could host a weekly dog rescue group.


Bowie, Md.: "Cindy Boren: Perhaps people shouldn't idolize sports figures. One thing I've noticed about them: they're ordinary human beings despite their talents. "

Not true! I once saw Darrell Green (aka SuperCorner) wipe out smoking in the District with onecommercial!

Cindy Boren: I am dubious, Bowie. Very dubious.


Washington, D.C.: So goodell said that he could re-instate Vick as late as week 6. Oh, lookie here: The Eagles are at the Redskins in week 7 on Monday night. Think ESPN will be leaning on the commish to make that his first game back? I do.

Cindy Boren: That was my first instinct, then I thought better of it. I think the NFL might prefer to actually NOT hyperinflate this -- totally out of character, I know. That home game against Tampa Bay might be more likely.


St Petersburg, Fla.: So if Vick really is used in the Wildcat formation, shouldn't it really be called Wilddog formation?

Cindy Boren: Arf, arf.


Herndon, Va.: While what Vick did was reprehensible, he did his time and paid his debt to society. I think that people deserve second chances when they take responsibility and accept their punishment, so I'm glad that he was signed.

However, I'm not so generous when it comes to third chances ... so he'd better be sincere.

How do you think the people of Philadelphia will react, though?

Cindy Boren: I don't think you'll see many Philly fans in Vick jerseys. At least not before week 10. Like you, I don't believe in third chances.


Philadelphia: I'm torn between believing in rehabilitation and second chances, and wanting to vomit all over my screen when I think about having to root for a guy who knocked dogs' teeth out with a hammer. I am not sure which urge will win out in the end.

Cindy Boren: Could you have someone videotape you on Sundays? This I gotta see.


Washington, D.C.: I find it funny reading that now these Philadelphia fans are embarrassed to be Eagles fans. Boo santa, no problem. Steal a man's wheelchair, cool. Cheer as Micheal Irvin lays injured on the turf, have at it. Hire a guys who's served his time and admits his mistakes. ... oh, this is where we draw the line.

Cindy Boren: Oh, boy, now we're cooking up here. And unfortunately my time is up.


Cindy Boren: Thanks so much for joining me on this impromptu chat. It's fascinating to see the range of opinions. Have a great weekend.


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