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With Prison Behind Him, What's Next For Michael Vick?

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By Brian Kumnick on July 20, 2009 2:10 PM

Michael Vick's prison sentence ended today with the removal of an ankle monitor used during his home confinement. He has served about 21 months in federal custody. So what happens now?

Vick has completed the confinement portion of his federal sentence, with 18 months in prison and two more on home confinement. He will now remain on "supervised release" for three years, a condition similar to being on probation, but imposed after a prison sentence. If Vick violates the conditions of his supervised release -- fails a drug test, commits another crime, or the like -- he could be sent back to prison for all or part of those three years.

Vick also pleaded guilty to state charges in Virginia related to the dogfighting operation and was given a suspended sentence of three years. Like supervised release, a suspended sentence is usually conditioned on good behavior by the defendant. Once again, Vick will need to stay out of trouble to avoid facing possible imprisonment in Virginia.
So as long as he stays out of trouble, Vick should be done with being jailed. But that of course is not the end of it. For good measure, Vick is also bankrupt. Tarnished Twenty wrote last month on the rejection of his bankruptcy plan by a federal judge. The judge appeared concerned that the plan was too optimistic that Vick would return to the NFL and a multimillion-dollar salary. Presumably, any new bankruptcy plan is going to have to address the real likelihood of his earning large football dollars anytime soon.

Which brings us to Vick's current most important question: will he play pro football again?

The NFL may or may not come calling. Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has been known during his tenure for cracking down on law-breaking players, suspended Vick in the wake of the dogfighting charges, and has not yet indicated what it will take for him to reinstate Vick.

And even if Vick gets the go-ahead from the league, he may find teams wary of both his post-prison fitness and skill levels and of the negative reaction he is sure to elicit from fans. As a result, he may face the same sort of ostracism that Barry Bonds did after his indictment on perjury charges related to his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. An indicted Bonds found himself without any offers at all to play in 2008. The combination of the drug allegations, the potential distractions of the trial, and expected negative fan reaction simply outweighed any interest teams may have had in seeing if Bonds could still swing the bat. Vick may find similar resistance from NFL clubs.

As a last resort, there's always the United Football League. The newly-formed minor league aims to start play this October, and has said that Vick might be welcome there. His presence in the UFL would certainly be a good test for the any-publicity-is-good-publicity maxim. With a UFL stint, Vick might prove himself as a player, priming for an NFL comeback. Or. like the USFL, XFL, and Arena League before it, the UFL might well sink out of sight, and take Vick's playing career with it.

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