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Measured Support for Vick

The reinstatement of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday touched off reaction from animal rights groups, NFL players and anyone else who had an opinion on Vick's involvement in dogfighting, perhaps the touchiest issue the league has faced.

Goodell said if Vick can find a team to sign him, he can immediately take part in preseason practices, workouts and meetings and can play in the final two preseason games. He would then be suspended for at most the first five games of the regular season.

The consensus seems to be that Vick, who spent 18 months in prison, has paid his dues and should be able to play again.

"I believe that he's paid his debt to society and everyone deserves a second chance," Buffalo Bills safety Donte Whitner said. "I don't believe he should be punished any longer. I know he'll get back into the league and be a model citizen. Congrats MV7."

Vick's former coach at Virginia Tech, Frank Beamer, said he was pleased that Vick will have a chance to get back to the NFL.

"I talked with him last week and I know he is making every effort to make the right decisions. I think he's going to have a great story," Beamer said from the ACC coaches meeting in Greensboro, N.C. "He had a lot, he lost a lot and he got back on his feet.

"I think he can affect a lot of young people by how he comes back and gets it going again."

So does the Humane Society of the USA, which says it expects Vick to make good on his pledge to get involved in anti-dogfighting work.

"We haven't been active in promoting his resuming his career, but we're not averse," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS. "We're focused on the goal of eradicating dogfighting, not endlessly flogging Michael Vick. We would rather have him be part of the solution than part of the problem.

"We're going to give him a platform to reach young kids . . . and steer them away from this vile activity of dogfighting."

The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was a little more militant in its statement, released Monday: "He has served his reduced sentence, but no child should ever look up to Vick as a role model. And . . . we are going to watch him like a hawk. In the meantime, we'd like to see the NFL add 'cruelty to animals' to its personal-conduct policy as an offense that won't be tolerated. Doing so might reduce the likelihood that this type of violent crime will take place again."

George Belch, co-founder of the San Diego State University Sports Business MBA program, said it would be tough to keep Vick from pursuing his livelihood, given that he was disgraced and lost a fortune.

"There aren't too many people who have served time who have come back and been banned from doing what they're capable of doing," he said.

Belch said because there's such a shortage of great quarterbacks in the NFL, some team will take a chance on Vick.

"It's really more of an image-PR issue - how much of a hit do you want to take?" Belch said. "With some teams it will smack of desperation. But some teams have typically taken guys like this, like the Oakland Raiders.

"Whatever team takes him is going to take some hits in the short term. But if he helps the team win, the pro football fan has a short memory.

"Winning overcomes a lot of things. Whether it's right or wrong, that's what human nature is about."

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