Let me preface this by saying I've never much cared for Michael Vick in the first place, even before the dog-fighting allegations. I was 16 years old, and repeatedly told my uncle who lives in Georgia he was the most overrated athlete of my generation. He laughed about it for a year, and then he agreed with me. I am a traditionalist when it comes to QBs. Sure, running QBs are exciting, but I take much more appreciation in a perfect spiral landing in the hands of a receiver like a pillow with laser accuracy.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I've started to think rationally about what's happened with Vick. He's paid his debt to society. He's kept his mouth shut. He's focusing on his family. He's on the right track to getting back in football and back in the good graces of the public. But I'm pretty tough on the guy, so here's 10 things he can do to make me like him. This is just me, so feel free to add to the list in the comments. In no particular order...
1) Face your past.
Sit down with Arthur Blank and tell him how much you appreciate his support throughout all of your time in Atlanta. Through the bird-flipping and West-Coast-offense struggling and initial, unconfirmed reports of your actions, Blank has been a class act through this whole thing. Even though you can't go back to Atlanta, you owe him a lot.
2) Let go of the past.
You have the fresh start to end all fresh starts. An opportunity to be a wonderful story. If you're a changed man, prove it. Pull a Mark McGwire and don't talk about the past, except when expressing remorse for what you've done. As far as I'm concerned, from now on, every day is the first day of the rest of your life.
3) Work with the Humane Society, publicly and privately
There's something to be said for doing it for the cameras, and doing it for what it is. Don't just shoot a few PSAs. Go to the shelters and visit the animals. Spend some time with them (this one is very important. If I wasn't a tv producer, I'd probably would have become a veterinarian).
4) Visit your former dogs
This one is dicey. I don't know how the dogs would react to you, or how you would react to them. I don't what the people at the rehab facilities would think. I just think it would be cool for you to see what your dogs have become, after they've been in rehab facilities for a few years. You might even see them for what they can be-fiercely loyal and kind companions.
5) Don't worry about football for a while
This will be hard, because football is such a huge part of your life, and such a big part of your identity. But you're also a father, a soon-to-be-husband, and, still, technically, incarcerated. Enjoy the simple things you've missed out on for the past 19 months. Your time will come when you can start focusing on football.
6) Show that you love the game
The Commissioner has said it is up to you, in regards to whether he reinstates you. The ball is on your side of the field. Prove to the commissioner that you're not only remorseful, but want to play football because you love it. Not because it pays you, not because you're good at it, but because you love it. You may have taken it for granted while you were playing, your physical gifts, your stardom, whatever else. Not anymore.
7) Accept your fate
If Goodell does not reinstate you (why is everyone assuming he will?), accept it gracefully. But don't stop there. Ask him what you can do to get reinstated, and do whatever it takes. If you really love football, you will. It will show everyone you're in it for the right reasons.
8) Be open to anything
Running the Wildcat. Being a backup. Splitting time at QB with an established passer. Lining up at QB and tailback. Your athleticism is one of your greatest assets. Allow an NFL team to use it. Don't box yourself in. You can still be electrifying on the field when you're not in the shotgun 24/7.
9) Sign an endorsement deal, and make some sweet ads
This is only half-joking. I've always appreciated a good sneaker ad. I'm a sucker for Nike. The athletes just ooze a cool, dominant aura with the right music, camera shots, movements, tricks and minimal use of words. Just don't go on the Madden cover. A curse is the last thing you need.
10) Keep a low profile
Save the exclusive post-incarceration interview, or don't do one at all. A simple press conference will do. Say what you have to say to the fans, and then let your actions speak for you. Let them say how sorry you are, what lessons you've learned, and how you've changed.
In summary, one of the things I never liked about Vick, was what looked like a lack of passion for the game. He didn't seem like he was a big team guy, he didn't always say the right things, he was just uber-focused on being who he was and refusing to change. Now, if he can accept change, work hard and appreciate this new opportunity, then he can create the underdog story to end all underdog stories (no pun intended).