Vick's road to redemption just a limo ride to Philly

Well, that didn't take long.

As soon as Michael Vick was released from prison back in May, I told my wife, "Someone will hire him. They'll probably let him lay low for a season hoping they can avoid at least some of the PR backlash, but he'll be back in the NFL. Just you wait."

Apparently - and I'm ashamed to say this - I gave those NFL types a little too much credit.

Just three months after leaving federal prison and less than a month after his release from home confinement, Vick is back in the NFL with Philadelphia. Last week he signed a two-year deal worth around $10 million with incentives.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Considering the state of the NFL - and pro sports in general - it was only a matter of time before someone walked straight out of the prison yard and into training camp.

Still, I am taken aback, NFL. Shameless doesn't even begin to describe it.

And lest you think I'm unfairly demonizing the entire league for the actions of a single franchise, remember that it was NFL commissioner Roger Goodell who put Vick back on the market when he conditionally reinstated the disgraced QB late last month.

Also, Philadelphia wasn't the only team to offer. Cincinnati reportedly offered as well. But Philly's deal was better.

Besides, are we really going to pretend every single general manager in the NFL didn't take a good, long look at Michael Vick? The ones who passed probably did so because they weren't sure how to spin it. Not for their own fans, mind you - most fans can rationalize just about anything when it comes to their team - but for everyone else.

Philly's angle? Redemption.

I mean, come on, who doesn't deserve a second chance? He's paid his debt to society. He's very remorseful. He's been working with Tony Dungy, for goodness sake! Who are you to judge? How dare you!

To illustrate, I pulled a few telling quotes from an article on <a href="http://espn.com">espn.com</a>. Here's Philadelphia coach Andy Reid: "I'm a believer that as long as people go through the right process, they deserve a second chance. He's got great people on his side; there isn't a finer person than Tony Dungy. He's proven he's on the right track."

Really? He proved that in, like, three months? Because we're talking years of questionable behavior, and it's more than just dogfighting. Have we forgotten the Ron Mexico incident?

Said Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb: "I pretty much lobbied to get him here. I believe in second chances and what better place to get a second chance than here with this group of guys?"

See, that's what people need to understand - Philadelphia offers Vick a stable environment. It's just like finding a good home for a troubled teen. Or a stray dog, to use a totally inappropriate analogy.

Here's my favorite quote, from team president Joe Banner: "It was very tough initially, but everybody we talked to said the same thing, that he was remorseful and that he had gone through an incredible transformation, that he was basically good at heart. We heard this over and over again from people who felt he deserved a second chance."

Translation: "If this blows up in our faces, I'm going to blame the phantom people who told us these things." He makes it sound like he was badgered into it. "What? I'm just the team president."

Look, I can certainly get behind the whole second-chance concept. Vick deserves a second chance at life, absolutely. He deserves the opportunity to be a happy, productive citizen. He deserves forgiveness.

What he doesn't deserve is $10 million. He doesn't deserve the life of a celebrity pro athlete. Few people are lucky enough to get even one chance at that. Vick's presence on an NFL roster is taking that dream away from someone who might appreciate it more than he does.

And I just can't believe this is doing Vick any good. Whatever lessons he may have learned are probably straight out the window. His second chance at NFL millions only reminds him that his athletic ability makes him special. He doesn't have to be accountable, as long as he can help some team win.

It's that kind of logic that landed Vick in prison in the first place. He didn't think he'd ever be held accountable for anything he did, right up until the moment he was sentenced.

You know, the irony here is that Bobby Petrino, who went to Atlanta thinking Vick would be his quarterback, is now the most hated man in the NFL. Few figures in the annals of sport have been so thoroughly vilified, in fact. He couldn't get a job in pro football, even if he wanted one.

Because, hey, you can't go around quitting with three games left in a miserable season. That's just not right.

But the unnecessarily cruel and inhumane murder of animals for one's own amusement? Bankrolling an illegal operation that rightfully lands one in prison? We're willing to let that slide, Michael, so long as you say you're sorry. But you have to really, really mean it.

What's your 40 time again?

<em>Questions? Comments? E-mail Advance sports editor Danny Scott at <a href="mailto:sports@monticellonews.net">sports@monticellonews.net</a>.</em>

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