- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced a plan of conditional reinstatement Monday for Michael Vick, who could be eligible for regular-season NFL action as soon as Oct. 18.

The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback, who had been in custody for nearly two years after pleading guilty on charges related to dogfighting, will be allowed to participate in preseason workouts and meetings and could also play in the final two games of the preseason if a team signs him.

Vick was released from federal custody July 20 but is on probation for three more years. He is an unrestricted free agent, and no teams have publicly expressed interest in signing him.

“I accept that you are sincere when you say that you want to, and will, turn your life around and that you intend to be a positive role model for others,” Goodell wrote in a letter to Vick. “I am prepared to offer you that opportunity. Whether you succeed is entirely in your hands.”

The NFL also announced it has appointed former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy as an adviser and mentor to Vick as part of a “transitional step approach” to his possible full reinstatement.

Goodell said he would consider letting Vick play as soon as Week 6, but his decision will be based on input from Dungy, Vick’s probation officer and other outside sources. The commissioner also said he will examine the quality of Vick’s work outside football and his ability to avoid any further trouble with the law.

“Needless to say,” Goodell wrote, “your margin for error is very limited.”

In a statement, Vick thanked Goodell for considering his reinstatement, acknowledging that playing in the NFL was “a privilege, not a right.”

“As you can imagine, the last two years have given me time to re-evaluate my life, mature as an individual and fully understand the terrible mistakes I made in the past and what type of life I must lead moving forward,” Vick said.

It is unclear how Vick’s potential return will be received by fellow players, though Buffalo Bills receiver Terrell Owens said Sunday that he did not believe the commissioner should suspend Vick.

“I spoke with Mike earlier today,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement. “I know he is thrilled to have the opportunity to come back. We are pleased that he is on the right path to return not only to the field, but as a contributing member of his community. I - and our community of players - will continue to support him as he looks to make the most of his second chance.”

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals requested Monday that the NFL adjust its personal conduct policy to specifically mention cruelty to animals as an unacceptable offense.

“He has served his reduced sentence, but no child should ever look up to Vick as a role model,” PETA said in a statement. “And for the sake of all the young football fans and all the dogs he electrocuted, drowned, slammed to the ground, and hanged, we are going to watch him like a hawk.”

PETA had previously asked that Vick undergo psychological tests. Goodell said Vick had undergone testing, which revealed no reason he could not return to play.

Goodell said that before reaching his decision he conducted interviews with Vick’s associates and family members, plus former teammates and members of NFL security. He met with Vick and players association officials last week; Goodell also reviewed letters written by Vick and others representing him.

In asking for reinstatement, Vick provided the NFL with a written plan that outlined his living arrangements, financial affairs and plans for mentoring and counseling. He also proposed work with the Humane Society and other animal rights groups.

Vick, a native of Newport News, Va., was a standout at Virginia Tech and the No. 1 pick by Atlanta in 2001. In six seasons with the Falcons, he started in 71 games, including four playoff games, and earned three trips to the Pro Bowl. He was arrested in July 2007 with three other men in connection with the operation of a dogfighting ring at Vick’s 15-acre property in Surry County, Va. In a plea agreement, Vick admitted to financing most of the fights and participating in several of them, drawing the ire of league officials and animal rights activists. The NFL suspended Vick indefinitely.

Vick’s biggest challenge may be finding a team interested in him. The Falcons, who had been seeking to trade Vick, reached an agreement in June to release him from his contract. Goodell said he would not prevent any team from signing Vick.

“That’s not something I would get involved with,” he said.

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