To avoid a media mess, and no doubt live ESPN round-the-clock coverage -- not that it will stop the network -- Michael Vick was released around 5 a.m. EST from a federal penitentiary in Kansas on Wednesday morning.
Apparently he and his fiancée, followed by a documentary crew, left the prison using an alternate entrance to evade all those cameras and reporters that had staked out the building. Vick is en route via car to his home in Hampton, Va., where he will serve the remainder of his 23-month federal sentence under house arrest -- he spent the past 19 months in prison after pleading guilty to bankrolling a dogfighting ring. On July 20, reportedly, the sentence will be up and then he will have three years of probation.
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With Vick out and soon to be a truly free man, let the NFL rumors begin. Disregard what Vick's agent said this week, that the former Falcons star "will place football on the back burner" during his immediate home confinement and that there are no meetings scheduled with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss reinstatement.
It's just a matter of time, and even the agent admitted that Vick would be hiring a trainer. Goodell said this week that he wouldn't make any alterations to Vick's indefinite NFL suspension until his full sentence runs its course and that Vick shows true remorse for his actions. But if Goodell immediately reinstates Vick in late July, that's right in time for NFL training camps.
And thanks to the folks at WagerWeb, we have odds on where Vick might land.
First off, the site asks if Vick will play in the NFL at any point in the 2009-10 season, and most people think that's a mere formality. Thus yes is -500, while no is +300.
But more interesting is the list of eight teams that the site gives as to where Vick might land. Here is a look at those eight, with WagerWeb's odds (you get your money back if Vick lands on a team not listed):
Detroit Lions (+200): Kudos to the site, because I wouldn't have considered the Lions, but it makes a bit of football sense. The team probably won't want expensive rookie QB Matthew Stafford on the field getting his brains beaten out this year. Thus, Vick could be potential stop-gap while also helping to attract fans to a franchise that desperately needs them. But it would seem that the Ford family ownership is too conservative to do this.
Oakland Raiders (+250): This makes too much sense just knowing Al Davis, but the Raiders already are committed to JaMarcus Russell at QB and have Jeff Garcia behind him. But using Vick as a multi-purpose threat could be the answer, especially since the Raiders don't have any receivers. At least we know that Davis wouldn't be afraid of fan response, since the Raiders and their fans love their outlaw media persona.
Cleveland Browns (+350): Vick could be sort of a Joshua Cribbs-lite on this team. And Browns fans are so passionate that they probably wouldn't care about Vick's past if he could contribute. But this doesn't feel right, and new coach Eric Mangini won't want the headache.
Kansas City Chiefs (+400): They don't need Vick as a QB with Matt Cassel now under center. And with the Hunt family also fairly conservative as owners, this is doubtful. But maybe new GM Scott Pioli, formerly of New England, is confident enough in the Patriot Way that he thinks his team could deal with Vick.
San Francisco 49ers (+400): The Niners need a QB, unless you really think Shaun Hill is the answer, and coach Mike Singletary initially said he might be interested in Vick before changing his tune. Still, this team could use an infusion of star power and might make the best football sense of any on this list. And we all know fans in San Francisco are forgiving, right Barry Bonds?
St. Louis Rams (+450): GM Billy Devaney is familiar with Vick, and the Rams are going nowhere fast (and also need fans), so it might be worth taking a shot on him. Plus the Rams play in a dome, which would still benefit Vick because of his quickness and the fact there's no wind, etc., to hamper his questionable accuracy. St. Louis could let Vick get back into football shape as he sits behind Marc Bulger. But they are rebuilding, so this isn't a fit.
Cincinnati Bengals (+550): Can you imagine how great it would be for Vick to join the team that will be featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks" this year? But the Bengals are trying to shed their reputation as a team full of thugs and criminals, so this won't happen.
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Carolina Panthers (+600): Coach John Fox's job is probably on the hot seat this season with Bill Cowher living down the road, so it's hard to imagine he would even want Vick on the team. But Vick does know the NFC South, so that's about the only advantage. This one won't happen, either.
No matter where Vick goes, you can be sure it won't be any team that has a family-based ownership (Bears, Bengals, Lions, etc.) or an owner that is very worried about public perception like Atlanta's Arthur Blank, who is too good of a businessman to deal with boycotting fans for his Home Depot franchises.
Vick likely will end up playing for an owner with a bit of an ego that is insulated from the fan backlash and media coverage and whose team needs a part-time offensive threat. The Niners and Raiders from the above list might fit that role, while teams not on the list like the Bucs, Cowboys, Dolphins and possibly Patriots, who believe their locker room can change anyone, might also be a landing spot.