- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Falcons owner Arthur Blank wants to see imprisoned quarterback Michael Vick back in the National Football League. But the door isn't open in Atlanta.
At an NFL owners meeting Tuesday, Blank told ESPN.com he would support an effort by Vick to return to the league after the quarterback finishes a federal prison sentence for his involvement in a dogfighting ring. Blank said he has had some contact with Vick, who has not played for the Falcons since the 2006 season.
"He's written me and I've answered him," Blank said. "I certainly wish Michael well in the future. I believe in second chances. I believe in third chances. That doesn't mean I believe in forever chances. But I do believe he's capable of redemption and learning from his mistakes."
When asked if Vick would return to the Falcons, Blank began with a generic answer and then switched to a very strong tone.
"I'll say this to you when I answer the question as fully as I can," Blank said. "From my perspective, people use the expression 'we've turned the page,' and we've turned the page, turned the chapter and closed the book. We've moved on and we have a franchise quarterback."
The Falcons used the third overall pick in this year's draft to select Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, who has led the team to a surprising 4-2 start.
"We're committed to Matt Ryan," Blank said. "Even before his early success, we were committed to Matt Ryan. We made that decision when we drafted him. When you select someone in the draft at that level and pay him what we're paying him, you expect him to be successful and you expect him to be a team leader."
But Blank said he would support Vick's return elsewhere in the NFL.
"Michael could be great for young people in the community to see a fellow who obviously made a series of very bad mistakes -- not just by who you spend time with, but to learn from those personally if he can get on with his life and be successful," Blank said. "I'd like to see it happen for him and for America and the National Football League. Whether or not that happens, we'll have to wait and see, but I certainly would support that."
Vick's sentence is scheduled to run into the summer of 2009. ESPN.com's John Clayton previously reported Vick has been working out in prison, has been bench-pressing over 300 pounds and is throwing the football well.
When Vick is released from prison, the league could take separate disciplinary action and suspend him. But if Vick completes his sentence, Blank said he would speak to commissioner Roger Goodell and ask him to allow the quarterback to be reinstated into the league.
"I certainly would," Blank said. "If I thought that Michael had redeemed himself and if Roger asked me what I felt, based on my knowledge and my own sensitivity about Michael, I certainly would be supportive of him, because I think he would have paid his debt to society. He made a mistake, he made a series of mistakes, but he's been through the legal process and is paying his debt. Once that's done, he's entitled to move on with his life again.
"If he's successful, I think he could be an important role model in a positive way for young folks who face difficult decisions to make the right decisions," he said.
Pat Yasinskas covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
22hEric D. Williams