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The Point of No Return?

AFTER SUSPENDED Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was sentenced on Monday to 23 months in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting operation, several general managers told SI that they thought the sentence would likely mean the end of Vick's NFL career. Their opinions were based primarily on the length of time that Vick will be away from the game. With time off for good behavior and credit for time served, the earliest he'll be eligible for release is May 2009, when he would be a month shy of his 30th birthday. But even then he could face more jail time if convicted by the state of Virginia.

"If you're talking about possibly three years out of the game, I don't know how he could not be affected," said one G.M., who asked to remain anonymous. "His legs have always been his thing, his speed and explosiveness. When you're playing, your body is tuned up from being out there. If that's taken away, you can try to train on your own and work on quick-twitch muscles and lift weights, but it's not the same. The second part is him not being able to throw the football and develop as a passer, which was never his strong point to begin with. To me, the whole thing adds up to it's over, as far as him playing again in the National Football League."

Before a comeback even becomes an option, Vick, the first pick in the 2001 draft, would need to be reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who suspended him indefinitely last summer. Goodell said Monday that the league would examine Vick's suspension "when the legal process was closed." Until the suspension is lifted, Vick's only pro football alternatives would be a lesser league, such as the Arena League or the Canadian Football League. There is also the issue of who will want to deal with the public relations fallout from signing him? "This is different from the Ricky Williams situation and failing a drug test," another G.M. said. "What team will want to stand on a podium and introduce Michael Vick? I don't know that there is one."



HARD TIME Vick faced up to five years in prison.