Vick leaves federal penitentiary for Va.

Updated: May 21, 2009, 7:07 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

HAMPTON, Va. -- Michael Vick is out of prison and headed home, penniless and reviled for running a vicious dogfighting ring, but hopeful for a second chance at his once-charmed life as a star NFL quarterback.

The suspended quarterback served 19 months in prison on the dogfighting conviction that capped one of the most astonishing falls in sports history -- one that stole his wealth and popularity.

"Football is on the back burner for now," said agent Joel Segal, who negotiated Vick's 10-year, $130 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons but will be asking for substantially less if his tarnished client's suspension is lifted by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Goodell, who suspended Vick indefinitely in August 2007, reiterated at the NFL owners meetings in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that he will review Vick's status after his criminal case is completed.

"I don't know what else I can add," Goodell said Wednesday. "Once he's concluded that, I will make a judgment based on what he tells me and what I can determine from speaking to others and a final background check on this and make a determination at the right time."

Vick, who turns 29 in June, left the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., by car early Wednesday, undetected by hordes of reporters who had staked out the prison.

He was accompanied on the 1,200-mile ride by his fiancée, Kijafa Frink, a videographer and several members of a security team assembled by Vick's lawyers and advisers, a person familiar with the plans told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to comment on the matter. The person did not know the reason for the videographer.

Avoiding the media will be tougher in Hampton, where he will serve two months in home confinement. His five-bedroom brick house is at the end of a cul-de-sac, where at least a half-dozen satellite trucks and several reporters and camera crews awaited his return. Out back, between the house and a pond, maintenance workers got the swimming pool ready.

He still was nowhere to be seen Thursday morning, but even at 1 a.m., about a dozen Vick supporters, several wearing his now-obsolete Atlanta Falcons jersey, waited outside.

Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison for financing a dogfighting conspiracy. He won't be released from federal custody until July 20, but his departure from Leavenworth begins a new chapter.

"It's a happy day for him to be starting this part of the process," Larry Woodward, Vick's Virginia-based attorney, said. "He looks forward to meeting the challenges he has to meet."

His ultimate goal is a return to the NFL, but Woodward said Vick's first priority "is spending time with his children and his loved ones."

Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Vick deserves a second chance, but it won't be with Atlanta, which has severed ties with its former star.

"We've made it clear Michael's not going to play for us again, as you know," Blank said. "Right now his salary is being tolled so it has no effect on our cap, beyond the allocation of signing bonus which happens under any circumstances. So we'll deal with it at the time we think is correct."

Chief among Vick's challenges is rehabilitating his image and convincing the public and Goodell that he is truly sorry for his crime, and that he is prepared to live a different life -- goals that will depend more on deeds than words.

"It goes beyond, 'Has he paid his debt to society?' Because I think that from a legal standpoint and financially and personally, he has," Blank said at an NFL owners meeting Wednesday.

Part of Vick's problem was the company he kept, Blank said, and weeding out the bad influences and associating with people who have his best interests at heart will be a key to redemption and a possible return to the NFL.

Michael Vick timeline

NFL.com Video

A chronology of events around Vick's troubles, ending with a guilty plea for dogfighting.

"There's the expression 'you are what you eat.' To some extent, you are who you hang with too, and that does have an effect on lives for all of us," he said.

Vick's NFL future remains a mystery.

"Mike's already paid his dues," Falcons receiver and former teammate Roddy White said Wednesday. "He wants to play football. I think if he gets reinstated before the season, there'll be a couple of teams that will be after him and give him a chance to play."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Vick doesn't deserve that chance until he passes psychological tests proving he is capable of feeling genuine remorse.

"Our position would be the opportunity to play in the NFL is a privilege, not a right," PETA spokesman Dan Shannon said.

First up for Vick is a $10-an-hour job as a laborer for a construction company. That job is part of his probation, and he will find out more about the restrictions he faces in home confinement when he meets with his probation officer later this week. He also will be equipped with an electronic monitor.

The Humane Society of the United States said Vick met with its president recently in prison and wants to work on a program aimed at eradicating dogfighting among urban teens.

Billy Martin, another of Vick's attorneys, said Vick chose to work with the animal protection group because it was one of his harshest critics before he was indicted.

"Now it's time for Mike's deeds to speak for themselves," he said.

Karen Pierce, a board member of a foundation Vick established in 2006 to help disadvantaged youths in his hometown of Newport News and Atlanta, also has said her former seventh-grade English student has told her one of his priorities after his release will be to get that program back up and running.

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said the group supports Vick and his family "as he works to rebuild his life."

Vick filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan that would have allowed him to keep the first $750,000 of his annual pay, with a percentage of any amount over that going to his creditors. A judge has rejected that plan, in part because of uncertainty about Vick's NFL future, and ordered him to submit a new one.

Vick said in bankruptcy court last month that he believes he can play another 10 to 12 years. The NFL career average is only 3.2 years, and Vick already has played seven.

Vick will be on three years of probation. He also pleaded guilty to a state dogfighting charge in November and received a three-year suspended sentence.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.