Don't let Vick escape again

Every NFL Commissioner has had a difficult situation to deal with during his tenure. Pete Rozelle had to deal with gambling issues, not to mention ensuring the survival of his fledgling league through sheer force of will. Paul Tagliabue coaxed the NFL through the antitrust cases and weathered the storm of upstart rival leagues in the 1980's.

It's early, but I think Roger Goodell's first big hurdle is Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

What's the holdup?

It's been over a week since Goodell made a statement about Vick's involvement in dogfighting. The Commissioner remarked that he was "concerned about the issues," would "continue to monitor it," and wanted to "understand the facts" before any decision was made.

With the way Goodell is procrastinating on this dogfighting scandal, you'd think Vick offered him 10-to-1 odds on Fido versus Spike.

What more is there to understand? The evidence linking Vick to dogfighting at this juncture is about as clear as the evidence the NFL used to suspend Pacman Jones for a year.

This is getting ridiculous. The league has really enjoyed parading Jones around in a cage this offseason, like some sort of big game trophy. He's their sacrificial lamb, their testament to how glorious their new policies are in the fight against NFL men of low moral fiber.

You want to make an example, Goodell? Make an example out of Vick. If you suspend him for a year, people will take notice, and not just the players. League executives, coaches and even fans will get the message.

Yes, even fans. Falcons diehards are jumping off the Vick bandwagon in droves at the moment. One of them is attempting to sell all eight of his #7 jerseys to anyone that will take them (Eight? The Falcons must be making a mint on alternate jersey sales).

On the Falcons' official message board, people are already discussing the possibility of starting Joey Harrington and questioning Vick's accuracy in comparison to D.J. Shockley. You know the situation has reached a crucial juncture when people start discussing D.J. Shockley. That's like Chiefs fans expressing optimism in Casey Printers ("we need a mobile quarterback behind this offensive line!")

Take a stand, Mr. Commissioner. You'll come cracking down on Jones and slap Cincinnati's Chris Henry on the wrist for eight games. You'll make Washington's Clinton Portis and Chris Samuels sweat bullets for even joking about dogfighting.

Meanwhile, you parade Vick around on NFL Draft Day at Radio City Music Hall like some kind of good guy. You prop him up next to upstanding NFL alumni like Bruce Smith and try to keep a straight face.

And it's not just dogfighting. Vick's been an honorary Duke of Hazzard since masquerading as Ron Mexico. He defiantly extended one finger to the fans in Atlanta after a November loss last season. Then there was the sly water-bottle incident at Miami International Airport in January.

Vick's peeling out all over the NFL landscape in The General Lee. It's time for Boss Hogg to set things right - even if Vick's running is as pretty as Daisy Mae Duke.

Now we're hearing that Vick is one of the "heavyweights" in dogfighting rings? Officials say they have enough evidence to indict? Congressmen are sniffing around? The prosecution has called in some guy named Poindexter?

Bring down the hammer, Mr. Commissioner. Bring it down like Rozelle brought it down on Paul Hornung and Alex Karras in 1963, suspending the pair for an entire year due to gambling.

The late Tex Schramm once said Rozelle gained immense respect around the league (even from Hornung's coach, Vince Lombardi) when he passed judgment on Hornung and Karras. You want to carve out a niche for yourself in NFL history, Mr. Commissioner? You want to usher in a new era of player accountability and an NFL known for the quality of its character?

The line must be drawn here. Who cares if Vick has a $100 million contract? Who cares if the NFL Player's Association will whine about a suspension (they're already appealing the Pacman suspension)? An example must be made.

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