- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

Roger Goodell plans to measure the depth of Michael Vick’s remorse before making a judgment on the quarterback’s reinstatement to the NFL, which clashes with the American spirit of granting the screw-ups in our midst a second chance.

Vick is nearing the completion of a 23-month prison sentence after being found guilty of bankrolling a dogfighting ring. He will be seeking to return to the NFL after his release from federal custody July 20.

He has paid a considerable debt for his repugnant actions. He has lost two years of his playing career and a vast fortune. On Friday, a judge in Newport News, Va., rejected his plan to recover from bankruptcy.

A return to the NFL is part of that plan. He also might want to add sufficient remorse to it.

Goodell hasn’t said how he intends to check on Vick’s state of remorse. He hasn’t said whether he will wave a remorse wand over Vick’s body to get a reading. He hasn’t said whether he will look deep into Vick’s heart.

Goodell has said just this: “I think it’s clear he’s paid a price, but to a large extent he’s going to have to demonstrate to the larger community - not just to the NFL community and to me - that he has remorse for what he did and that he recognizes the mistakes he made.”

Perhaps Vick should get down on his knees and say he is truly, truly sorry before a massive gathering in Times Square.

Or perhaps he should make the talk-show tour - Letterman, Leno, Oprah - and discuss how awful a human being he once was and how he has seen the error of his ways. It would help if he would squirt a few tears, too.

Or perhaps Vick should take up the cause of dogs living on death row in shelters. He could start the Michael Vick Adopt-a-Dog Foundation. Maybe then Goodell would find it in his power to let Vick return to that choirboys organization known as the NFL.

Just to be certain, it was a dogfighting ring that brought Vick down, wasn’t it?

He was not making the dollars rain in a strip club, which resulted in mayhem, gunfire and a paralyzed bouncer.

He did not accidentally shoot himself in the thigh while partying in a Manhattan nightclub. He was not involved in a late-night fight outside an Atlanta nightclub that left two men dead.

The list of perpetrators employed in the NFL could fill a tome, and all too many find a way to wiggle free from the clutches of justice.

Goodell’s interest in Vick is not really about justice. Vick is paying his debt to society. He has been vilified on talk shows, on the Internet and in print. He has been informed by the Falcons that he is too radioactive for them.

Goodell is playing politics with Vick, if not acquiescing to those animal rights activists who place more value on a four-legged creature than a human.

He, in effect, is warning Vick. Act extra contrite. Or else.

Put on this grand show of atonement. Or else.

Bow your head in penance. Or else.

It is absurd, starting with Goodell wanting to evaluate Vick’s remorse.

Goodell cannot know what lurks in Vick’s heart. He cannot know how confinement has changed Vick.

Vick undoubtedly will be motivated to say all the appropriate things to both Goodell and a dog-loving public. He may even mean all of it. Or some of it. But that is not the point. Only he will know the depth of his remorse.

Unless he remains stuck on stupid - a genuine possibility with him, of course - Vick should be granted the opportunity to return to the NFL this fall.

Otherwise, the further kicking of Vick while he is down is unbecoming.

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