As all indications point toward a conditional reinstatement of quarterback Mike Vick and a four-game suspension to start the regular season, Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star makes the case for no further punishment at all.
“It feels like double jeopardy,” Whitlock writes regarding the probability that Vick won’t be allowed back onto the field immediately.
We’ve actually seen that term used a couple of times recently in connection with the likelihood that Vick’s federal prison term will be followed by a separate suspension by the NFL.
It strikes a chord with the average non-lawyer, but it has no real application here.
Vick isn’t being tried twice for the same conduct, which is what the term double jeopardy means. Instead, his employer is determining the appropriate penalty for the conduct in which he admittedly engaged.
In this regard, it’s important not to presume that doing his time equates to squaring himself with the NFL. The league needs to fashion a final decision based on his full range of actions, so let’s consider what he did.
Vick pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges relating to interstate gambling and dogfighting. Both are felonies.
He also pleaded guilty to dogfighting under Virginia law, another felony. Prosecutor Gerald Poindexter, whom we and many others believed lacked appropriate zeal when investigating Vick in 2007, argeed to allow Vick to plead guilty to that charge without tacking additional time onto Vick’s federal sentence.
Then there’s the issue of Vick’s admitted killing of dogs, in various grotesque, bizarre, and arguably psychopathic ways. Drowning. Slamming to the ground. Hanging. Electrocution via the attachment of electrodes to testicles.
Vick admitted to involvement in those killings as part of his federal plea. He then tried to lie about it while strapped to a polygraph, presumably because he realized that even Poindexter might not be able to bungle a prosecution for multiple felonies counts of killing dogs, given a crystal clear admission of the crime from Vick.
But bungle it Poindexter did, failing to get even an indictment on charges that could have sent Vick away for a lot longer than 21 months.
And let’s not forget the fact that Vick lied to Goodell regarding his involvement in dogfighting.
Or the positive test for marijuana, which occurred while Vick was free on bond, awaiting sentencing.
So we think that Vick should be thrilled if he’s only suspended four more games. Indeed, his prior suspension was a no-brainer, unless the folks at Leavenworth had planned to allow him to leave on Sundays in the fall.
As we’ve previously pointed out, Pacman Jones was suspended a full year without ever spending the night in jail. How can the purposes of the Personal Conduct Policy be served if a guy who went to prison for nearly two years receives no separate punishment from the league?
We have a feeling Vick won’t see it that way, due in large part to the fact that many folks not connected to the case declare he has been punished enough for the things he did, without fully appreciating the heinous (or, as the prosecutor in our favorite courtroom comedy would say it, “high-anus”) nature of Vicks’s actions.
We’ve recently been making the case for Vick regaining his position as an every-down quarterback, arguing that he’s better than many guys who already serve as NFL starting quarterbacks. That’s because we’ve been trying to separate our disdain for what he did, which remains significant, from his talent and potential, which also remains significant.
We initially believed that Goodell would suspend Vick for at least a full season. Public opinion has favored Vick much more strongly than we thought it would. Coupled with the possibility that Vick would give instant legitimacy to the UFL, we can understand why he’s poised to get back into the game with an additional suspension of less than half a season.
Folks who think he shouldn’t be suspended at all need to look at the case more broadly, and realize that it could have been — and maybe should have been — much, much worse for Vick.