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Monday, April 30, 2007
Fed up with Michael Vick

By Jemele Hill
Page 2

Someone should kidnap Michael Vick, tape a steak to his chest and place him in a room full of pit bulls. That would give him a sense of what dogfighting is really about.

Maybe it would jog Vick's memory, since he wants us to believe he's the most oblivious athlete on Earth. Based on some of his decisions, I suppose that's not a total stretch.

Michael Vick
Vick keeps popping up in the news, for the wrong reasons.
As authorities investigate his cousin for running drugs and an elaborate, sickening dogfighting ring on Vick's Virginia property, Vick is sticking to the ever-trendy "It's not me, it's everybody around me."

Vick doesn't live at the home where police found neglected animals, treadmills for training and blood-soaked carpets. But that doesn't matter. Add up Vick's transgressions and you'll see he's been extended a pretty long leash (no pun intended), and it's past time for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to jerk it a little. Flipping the bird to Atlanta fans. Aquafina-gate at the Miami airport. And now this canine caper.

At what point does Falcons owner Arthur Blank cease drooling over his season-ticket sales and stop rationalizing the behavior of his immature superstar? At what point do the Falcons wake up, stop crying that those who don't love Vick are racists, and realize their quarterback doesn't have the common sense of a coffee table?

But here's the real $64,000 question: At what point does Goodell -- who I've dubbed Judge Dredd -- do more than have a 20-minute conversation with Vick, likely the most marketed face in the NFL? What will Judge Dredd do if no charges against Vick are filed?

Goodell needs to send a strong message, regardless of whether Vick is ever named as a culprit. Vick's already done enough to earn a one- or two-game suspension. If he's charged with felony animal abuse, he'll have earned a lot more than that.

For the NFL's conduct policy to work, it must have muscle, and in some way exact the punishment the police often can't because superstar athletes are insulated by superstar attorneys. The point of the policy is to penalize players who routinely misbehave and make poor decisions. Goodell set a precedent with Pacman Jones, who has yet to have any charges filed against him from the Las Vegas strip club incident. Vick's possible connection with organized dogfighting has brought the league embarrassment in the same ballpark as Pacman's shenanigans during the NBA's All-Star Weekend.

Even if Vick wasn't directly involved with dogfighting, it happened at his home. The police might not be able to determine Vick's role in this, but I find it extremely hard to believe he's as clueless as he claims. Then again, look at his passer rating.

Goodell should have told Vick not to come to the NFL draft, which Vick attended to honor those murdered in the Virginia Tech shootings. His presence was, at best, a dishonorable distraction. Telling Vick to stay home would have been an indication Judge Dredd is not fooling around.

Count me among those unmoved by Vick's vow to change and to eliminate bad influences. Vick and Pacman must have the same PR person. But here's a free PR lesson that both guys need to follow: People don't want to hear excuses. They don't want hear about wayward family members or other associates. If you aren't smart enough to decide who you should keep in your circle, how could you possibly be smart enough to lead a franchise? Also, people really, really hate it when someone with a $130 million contract is trying to play the victim.

"After what happened … I just wanted to crawl in a hole. I can't take it no more," Vick told ESPN at the draft. "I walk around with a smile on my face and act like I'm happy, but on the inside it's hurting. And it's killing me. I ain't got no more energy left for it. The more I continue to do things and my name is in the media, I'm not going to get anywhere."

Boo hoo. Just imagine how Spot feels.

Jemele Hill, a Page 2 columnist and writer for ESPN The Magazine, can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.