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Vick's future is in Goodell hands now

Michael Vick's federal dog-fighting sentence is scheduled to end today and that is also when the former NFL player will go back on trial - facing a whole new series of judgements.

Michael Vick has the support of the players but can expect protests from animal lovers.
Michael Vick has the support of the players but can expect protests from animal lovers.

WASHINGTON // Michael Vick's federal dog-fighting sentence is scheduled to end today and that is also when the former NFL player will go back on trial - facing a whole new series of judgements. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, teams, fans and sponsors are among those who will weigh in on Vick's future.

Firstly, Goodell must decide if Vick's suspension will end, and, if so, when - allowing the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback a chance to play in the league again. Goodell is expected to act quickly, so Vick and interested teams know his status for the coming season. Training camps for veterans start opening next weekend. There has been communication between Vick's camp and the league about the process, though neither side have made comments publicly about where things stand.

Vick has kept silent and probably will continue to until Goodell makes an announcement. While Goodell is declining interview requests on this topic, his position is fairly well outlined - he wants a face-to-face meeting, and Vick must show serious contrition. "Michael's going to have to demonstrate to myself and the general public and to a lot of people: Did he learn anything from this experience? Does he regret what happened?" Goodell said in May.

"Does he feel that he can be a positive influence going forward? Those are questions that I would like to see when I sit with him." Once Goodell's ruling is rendered, NFL clubs will have to determine what, if any, interest they have in Vick. Among the questions teams will ponder - What kind of shape is he in? What position should he play? What type of public relations hit might he bring? "Teams certainly are going to want to know: where is his mind-set? Going forward, is he going to be a good citizen?

"You'd interview him and hope you get a good feel in the interview. That's the first thing," former Washington and Houston general manager Charley Casserly said. "The second thing is: you've got a guy two years out of football, with no conditioning programme." NFL teams are allowed to initiate talks with Vick because the Falcons released him in June. He was cut less than five years after signing a US$130 million (Dh477.5m), 10-year contract.

Vick's agent, Joel Segal, would not discuss whether teams have been in contact about his client. A survey of the 31 other NFL clubs in November found that at least a half-dozen teams would not shut the door on the possibility of acquiring Vick at some stage. At his best, Vick - who turned 29 last month - was as dynamic an athlete as there was in the NFL, a No 1 overall draft pick and three-time Pro Bowl selection who led the Falcons to the 2005 NFC championship game.

He was the first NFL quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season; he also never threw for more than 3,000 yards or 20 touchdowns in any season, and his career completion percentage is below 55. Vick's release from federal custody comes today, when he can stop wearing an electronic monitor as he begins three years' probation. He is finishing a two-month home confinement in Hampton, Virginia, which completes a 23-month sentence after he admitted bankrolling a dog-fighting operation. Court papers revealed gruesome details about the operation, including the killing of underperforming dogs by electrocution, drowning and hanging.

That is why his toughest critics moving forward could be animal rights activists. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote to Goodell in January, saying Vick should not be allowed to return to the NFL unless he submits to a psychological evaluation. The consensus among players appears to line up with the opinion expressed by Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall: "I honestly think Mike has paid his debt to society. I would love to see him play again, sooner than later.But I respect the NFL."

* AP