The NFL has finally ruled. Michael Vick can practice, but he can’t play until the final two preseason games. (This assumes he can find a team that will hire him, which I believe he will.) Once the regular season commences, he can do everything except play in games.
That’s in September and the first half of October. Once October passes its midpoint, he can play in real games, too.
I don’t get it.
Maybe there’s a Solomonic compromise embedded in Roger Goodell’s ruling, but for the life of me I can’t find it. What I see is a commissioner who felt pressured to do something even if he wasn’t quite sure doing anything more is warranted. So he half-stepped. He also overstepped.
This is, to use a football term, piling on. Vick has been suspended by the NFL for 23 months and three days. If the league wanted to disassociate itself with him completely, it could have just said, “Suspension stands. Sorry, Mike.” But clearly it doesn’t want to disassociate itself with Vick. Clearly it doesn’t want him to pop up first in the low-rent United Football League. It wants to see him on an NFL field again.
Just not quite yet.
Why? For no other reason I can discern beyond cosmetic issues. The NFL wants Vick back but it doesn’t want to appear as it’s welcoming him back. And that’s understandable. He’s a convicted felon. He just did 20 months in government custody. But docking him six more games — eight if you count the two exhibitions — isn’t really a penalty. It’s a nuisance. It’s Goodell doing an Alexander Haig and saying, “I’m in charge here.”
OK, Vick embarrassed the NFL. We know that. And playing in the NFL isn’t a right but a privilege. We get that, too. But why have him on an NFL roster if you don’t want him playing — at least not yet — in NFL games? Either ban him or reinstate him fully. Why drag this into October? Why spend 2 1/2 more months reminding everyone of one of the sorriest chapters in league history? Why not just clear him and be done with it?
Because Roger Goodell wanted to look tough. But Roger Goodell didn’t want to look so tough as to drive Vick to a start-up league. So he tried to split the difference. Sorry to say, he missed. This satisfy neither the Vick haters or the Vick supporters. I doubt this even satisfies Roger Goodell.