In the past two weeks, Michael Vick has had to deal with a stripper claiming to have a near-ten year relationship with him while he was dating his future wife, and a New York Times’ article damning his present, because of his past history of dog fighting. Fortunately for Vick, neither appear to have caught steam with the public, because while both made valid points, Michael Vick appears to be at a completely different point in his life now, then he was when he was running around on his then girlfriend or dogfighting.
Players never seemed to view Vick the same way as the public did during his entire dogfighting incident, as former Falcons’ teammates Roddy White and DeAngelo Hall stood by Vick in 2007, even when he didn’t stand by himself, and had plead guilty to dogfighting charges.
After Vick served 23 months in prison, the public didn’t welcome him back with open arms (at least for the most part), but players never seemed to have any issue welcoming Vick back into the NFL fraternity.
Maybe my view of the public is cloudy and more people did support Vick immediately out of jail, but in many senses, it isn’t hard to see why Vick was so welcomed back by the players.
First off, the players knew him better than we did as observers of the game. While as far as we know no one in the league knew about his dogfighting ring, they probably knew more of the positives about Vick as a person as well. Many players who came from “the bottom” could also likely sympathize with a guy who never seemed to forget where he came from (at least until a jail stint forced him to), because some of them came from similar backgrounds. Whether they cleaned up their act or never changed once they got paid, really doesn’t matter. The players who knew Vick and came from a similar background, had a better understanding of Vick’s personal background than rich (usually white) people that worked for news outlets and had never really struggled a day in their lives, who were the first ones unwilling to give Vick a second chance.
I’m not saying that I disagree with those talking heads on television, because I wasn’t a fan of Vick out of prison either, but I just don’t believe that players wanted to hear people who worked on CNN and Fox News try to talk about Vick.
It’s a tough issue for me, because I can’t fathom coming from Michael Vick’s background having been middle-class my entire life, but I don’t think I would have ever done anything as awful as what he did, no matter where I came from. At least I would like to believe that.
I think players who grew up watching Vick, dreaming about being able to play the game or bring the excitement to the league that Vick did, and using him in Madden everytime they played (not that we didn’t all do that), while idolizing someone who had a rough childhood and became successful, were quicker to say that Vick just made a mistake and served his time, rather than digging deeper into some of the sick crimes that he had committed.
Was that the right way to handle things? That’s your opinion, but it’s a lot harder to be unaccepting of someone that you have to deal with in real life. Five years later, many appear to feel like the players did when Vick was signed by the Eagles, and even as Vick’s up and down tenure with the Eagles (never because of law trouble, but just due to inconsistent play) appears to be coming to a close, players still seem to have Vick’s back as much as ever.
In an ESPN confidential poll that asked players who they would most like to see play in the Superbowl, Vick, who lost his starting job to Nick Foles about a quarter of the way into the season, ranked sixth on the list.
Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings topped the list, but the fact that Vick even checked in after losing his starting job, shows the love that players around the league have for Vick.
Perhaps the best shot that Vick has of reaching a Superbowl and satisfying his supporters around the league, would to be to join forces of one of the two players on this list. The Vikings need a quarterback to pair with Adrian Peterson, and with Norv Turner taking over as the offensive coordinator for the ‘Vikes, Vick could have success with the Vikings. But perhaps no opportunity would be better than if Vick joined Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, and a stacked Texans defense, in Houston, now coached by offensive genius Bill O’Brien, to help give Houston its first Superbowl.
One thing is for sure, no matter where Vick ends up in 2015, players around the league will have his back—and they always did.