- The Washington Times - Monday, May 25, 2009

Michael Vick and the Humane Society of the United States are looking to forge a mutually beneficial pact.

Vick needs the support of the group to burnish his image, plus enhance his reinstatement prospects with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The Humane Society wants the power of Vick’s celebrity.

This odd coupling promises to be an overwrought exercise, with Vick expected to express remorse an infinite number of times in the months ahead. The quality of his remorse is important, too.

“Michael’s going to have to demonstrate to myself and the general public and to a lot people, did he learn anything from this experience?” Goodell said last week. “Does he regret what happened? Does he feel that he can be a positive influence going forward? Those are questions that I would like to see when I sit with him.”

That sit-down will not occur until Vick has completed his two-month home confinement in Hampton, Va., in late July, which will coincide with the start of training camps.

So Vick has another two months to practice his sincerity skills. He already has practiced them on Humane Society president Wayne Pacelle, an initial skeptic who appears to have been impressed with the ex-head of a dog-fighting operation.

“Sometimes folks who are reformed can be particularly strong advocates,” Pacelle said while noting that he has set the bar high on Vick.

A few anti-dog-fighting public-service announcements will not suffice as an act of contrition.

“We agree that he’s got to put boots on the ground and hit the issue hard and do it over a long time,” Pacelle said.

That is a lot of groveling before Vick, who has no choice but to go along with it.

He is busted and broke, with no way to make good on his debts unless he is in a football uniform, preferably one with an NFL logo.

A sense of charade permeates the challenge. Who but Vick will know what lurks inside his heart?

Certainly not Goodell or Pacelle, both motivated by reasons other than the depth of Vick’s remorse.

This is the penalty on top of Vick’s time served, a kind of double jeopardy that is not allowed in the courtroom.

Vick can run - we don’t know whether he still can run a 4.3 40 - but he cannot hide from the exhaustive dissection ahead.

It won’t be easy. Or even fair. Vick lost out on fair the moment he denied to Goodell that he was involved in the dogfighting enterprise. Goodell is not apt to forget Vick’s lie during their sit-down. And he is not apt to forget the sincerity Vick mustered to sell the falsehood.

Whatever team eventually takes a chance on Vick - and you cannot rule out the Redskins - it is going to need a platoon of public-relations specialists to ease the transition.

Pacelle sounds willing to lend his group to help with the transition.

“We can give him an opportunity to do the right thing, but it’s ultimately going to be his level of intensity and sincerity that is going to convince the American public,” Pacelle said.

It is doubtful Pacelle would be interested in employing Vick if he were a nobody. But Pacelle clearly sees a potential media bonanza that could help his group’s coffers.

Vick is actually going to have two professions sooner rather later: quarterback and professional apologist.

Overactive tear ducts may help with the latter.

It promises to be a compelling reality show, however it goes down.

It is about a professional football player’s meteoric fall from grace and his struggle to pick himself up and start anew, all in view of a dog-loving public.

Vick’s lawyers, inner circle and family undoubtedly are going over the talking points these days, while holding their collective breath.

He reached out to the Humane Society. Its president seems receptive to him.

That is the first step.

The next will involve Goodell, with many more to follow.

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