Michael Vick's NFL Career: Over?
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
And now we're going to talk about Atlanta Falcons' quarterback Michael Vick. Michael Vick announced to his lawyers yesterday that he is prepared to enter a guilty plea on federal conspiracy charges related to dog fighting. He will go back to court on Monday. He faces fines of up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison, and it could mean the end of his football career.
Joining us to talk about this is Rose Scott. She's a regular contributor to the program, a sportswriter and a blogger in Atlanta. Also with us is Roy Johnson, editor in chief of Men's Fitness magazine, also a regular guest at our table. Welcome, both.
Mr. ROY JOHNSON (Editor-In-Chief, Men's Fitness Magazine): Hello, Michel. As always, it's a pleasure to be here.
Ms. ROSE SCOTT (Sportswriter; Blogger, Sports Mix with Rose Scott): Thanks, Michel.
MARTIN: And, of course, before we begin, as we've talked about before, for those who do not know, my husband, Billy Martin, represents Michael Vick. He's been his lead lawyer in this case. So I can't talk about this, especially the legal aspects of this case. So that's why I have the two of you. So, as I've said to Rose before, you need to carry the ball.
So, Rose, why don't you start, because you are in Atlanta. Has there been support for Vick before this, and how are people reacting now to this news?
Ms. SCOTT: You know, prior to Michael Vick's indictment, he had a lot of support. You know, you could listen to the sports talk shows. You know, even some of the local writers here at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. Then as he was indicted and his buddies started turning on him, it started to change a little bit. There's still a very, very small percentage of people here, there's a local social activist here by the name of Gerald Rose who has been sort of, you know, saying stick with Vick. He's brought up racism as a factor, which I totally disagree with. But definitely, Michael Vick's supporters have dwindled to a very, very small percentage.
MARTIN: Roy, the NFL issued, I think, a pretty tough statement, I think you'd say. And it's saying that they're aware of his decision to enter a guilty plea. We condemn the conduct outlining the charges, which is inconsistent with what Michael Vick previously told both our office and the Falcons and said they're going to continue the review, still asking the Falcons to withhold an individual team judgment until the league has finished its review. But tell me about what that statement means.
Mr. JOHNSON: That means that they cannot wait to hear what happens in court on Monday. I can't imagine that their investigation is going to reveal any more than Michael Vick will have to cop to in that courtroom. And not long after that - after they probably have their conversation with Michael and ask him why did you lie to us, that is one element of this that is probably going to hurt him as much as anything else.
And once they finish that conversation and their own internal investigation, I'm sure they will levy a very, very stiff penalty that will probably not run concurrently with whatever sentence is given to him by the court. So if people are considering when and if Michael Vick might be able to return, you're looking at, at least a year - not just for what he cops to in terms of dog fighting but the illegal gambling charge, which for sports leagues is really the virus and the poison that they're most afraid of. So it'll be a long time in terms of Michael Vick being eligible, eligible at all to return to NFL.
MARTIN: In a long time means, what? Certainly the rest of the season is no longer possible, but what about next season? Do you think next season…
Mr. JOHNSON: Well…
MARTIN: …is possibly…
Mr. JOHNSON: Well, let's say he is sentenced to 18 months. So he will miss all of this season and the following season. He will not get out until 2009, I believe. If then - if an NFL suspension kicks in, and let's say it's just one year, that would be the minimum, I think, that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would levy against him, that puts us into, you know, after 2010.
Michael Vick right now is 27 years old. So he will be a 30-year-old ex-quarterback who has not played in at least two seasons, almost three seasons, so where will his skills be? If anything, we might not ever see him again as a quarterback, but possibly as a wide receiver playing for some team and some owner that has a very forgiving heart.
MARTIN: Rose, what do you think?
Ms. SCOTT: I agree with Roy. I think that if people think that Michael Vick can probably come back for the 2010, maybe 2011 season, that's not a bad prediction. But we'll never see Michael Vick in an Atlanta Falcon's uniform again, and I don't know if we'll ever see him as a quarterback again, because understand this, too, for those that know football, Michael - there were questions regarding Michael Vick as a quarterback.
He's an incredible athlete, and Roy will tell you, you know, his ability as a passer has always been questioned in terms of his consistency in being able to do what a quarterback is supposed to do on the field, which is - for the most part - throw the ball.
Ms. SCOTT: Michael Vick coming back at the age of 31 because he is a tremendous talent, you know, he could be an asset to a team. Now Roger Goodell holds a lot of this in his - in the palm of his hand because, under the personal conduct policy, and Michael Vick will be convicted of criminal activity, he could be suspended or he could be banned.
MARTIN: Be banned. Roy, I wanted to ask you, though, about what you think - I know you have some thoughts about this - and unfortunately, they'll have to be very brief. But do what you think this says about the culture of - I think there are a lot of things a lot of people are wondering is why would jeopardize a $100 million contract for something like this? And do you have any thoughts about that?
Mr. JOHNSON: Michael Vick is not the first athlete to believe that he is invincible. Look at the number of athletes and celebrities. We live in a culture where people continue to risk millions of dollars. Michael Vick will lose $71 million because of a silly, heinous past time that he will - on Monday - allegedly admit to not only participating in, but funding.
You know, no logical person can answer that question as to why one would do that - 70 million over here, crazy illegal activity over here. Most of us would probably say we'll opt for the 70 million. Maybe this is a lesson for not just athletes, but for anyone who is putting risky behavior…
Mr. JOHNSON: …ahead of common sense.
MARTIN: All right. We'll have to leave it there. Thanks, Roy.
Roy Johnson is editor of Men's Fitness magazine. He joined us from NPR New York. And sportswriter and blogger Rose Scott spoke with us from member station WABE in Atlanta. Thank you both so much.
Ms. SCOTT: Thank you.
Mr. JOHNSON: Thank you.