caption="Smith says Vick's impact as a humane spokesperson could be far-reaching"]
Michael Vick is back in the game. Now he needs to find an NFL team that will let him play. The former star quarterback, who just finished serving 18 months in prison for running a dog fighting ring, received a conditional reinstatement Monday from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. A ruling on Vick’s full reinstatement is not expected until October but he could be cleared before then.
Ryan Smith is sports attorney and BET talk show host and spoke to CNN’s Kiran Chetry Tuesday.
Kiran Chetry: Were you surprised that Roger Goodell said Vick could come back in?
Ryan Smith: Not at all. He had to give him some sort of second chance. Playing in the NFL is privilege, not a right but there has to be some sort of forgiveness. He served 18 months. Goodell is thinking let's let him back in, at a time frame that’s not immediate after he served his sentence but after a little bit of time.
Chetry: When we talk about conditional what does he have to do, what obligation does he have to meet to be fully reinstated?
Smith: Well Michael Vick submitted a plan to the commissioner about what he’s willing to do to show that not only that he has remorse but also that he's going be an active good citizen and spokesman on the behalf of dogs. He's going to work with the humane society possibly to be a spokesman for them because his voice as a convicted felon of these kinds of crimes has a greater impact than someone just coming out and saying ‘don't abuse jobs.’ Look at what he lost, he could say, this is why you should not hurt dogs.
Chetry: Just to remind people who may have forgotten the federal conspiracy charge against Vick for his role in the dog fighting venture which was on his property. It included executing eight dogs who underperformed. One of them, he got the okay to wet the dog down and electrocute them. In one case they hung the dogs, in one case he drowned them, and in another case they slammed the dog's body against the wall. If you and I faced prison time for that, would we get our old jobs back?
Smith: We would never get our jobs back. That makes it surprising in the overall scheme of things. That's why the commissioner is taking this approach. Look at it this way, the NFL doesn't just want people to come and play in their league and be good players, they want good citizens. So what he's trying to say, look, I don't want to take everything away from him. He served 18 months in jail. He did his time but I’m not going to let him right back in unless he shows me complete remorse. Not only is he going to be somebody who’s going to say ‘I’m sorry’, but he's going to be somebody to fight for the rights of dogs and make sure it doesn't happen again.
Chetry: The other interesting thing is you said that Roger Goodell said in his statement that the playing for the NFL is a privilege, its not a right. But he also said that a player is held to a standard of conduct higher than that generally expected in society and is held accountable when the standard isn't met. In this case, it seems, yes, he served his time but that wasn't being held to a higher standard. The dog-fighting ring is not anything that's acceptable to society but he's getting his job back.
Smith: Yes because most people would not get their jobs back but I think what he’s trying to show is if he cuts the player off now then NFL players might look and say, you know what, this is unfair. I served my time. You're trying to hold me to a standard that's higher but I'm in the public eye all the time. Maybe if I can show remorse, maybe if I can go out there and do things that the normal citizen can't do because of my stature maybe I should be let back in.
Chetry: He cleared that first hurdle. The next hurdle is finding a team that will take him on. What's the likelihood of this?
Smith: That's going to be a real challenge. At least for now, he's going to have trouble finding a team. A lot of people out there are saying ‘let's give him another chance.’ But you know what, the moment he walks on that field, especially in the pre-season, the attention for the team will be focused on him rather than on the team development. And then throughout, if you're going to his game, you're going to have to pass by PETA protesters and all kinds of other people trying to tell you what he did. If he goes out and changes the way people view him, if he becomes a spokesman, I think that's really important for him. Then maybe when he gets on the field for the first time, it will be Michael Vick, convicted dog felon but look at how he changed his life.
Chetry: Do you see this as a mid season replacement?
Smith: He could come back as early as week one. The commissioner can say ‘I’ll evaluate that as soon as I want.’ I think he'll come back mid season. I think if he really changes the way people look at him, I think we could see him come in October or something like that when someone gets injured and they need him.
Chetry: Not to mention all that type of pressure, he has to play well, right? On top of that, he's been out of the game.
Smith: He's been out of the game. So the good thing about this suspension for him is that he gets to be in a preseason training camp. For some people out there, who are really opposed to what he did, me included, you included, it seems like, well, we’re giving him the chance to get back in shape to play. He's been given every opportunity to really kind of succeed here. But the thing is, if he's going to get back on that field, if he's going to become a quality player, he has to get the practice going. He’ll have that in pre-season. If you look at it in the larger scheme of things, if he can go in here and he can really change the way he's viewed maybe it’s a success.