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|Vick keeps popping up in the news, for the wrong reasons.|
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 email@example.com.