Friday, June 12, 2009

Is the NFL Hoping Vick Winds up in the UFL?

Mike Vick's path to the UFL is clear now. Very clear.

“He has paid his penalty,” (UFL Commissioner) Bill Hambrecht said, according to Bloomberg.com. “What we did is we went out to our fan base and said ‘what do you think?’ On our Web site, people want to see (Mike Vick). People believe he deserves a second chance.”

When this statement was released yesterday, I had an idea something was about to happen. There had been talk that the Atlanta Falcons might block him from playing in the UFL, in a similar fashion to how the Tennessee Titans blocked Pacman Jones from competing in TNA Wrestling. Now, the Falcons have waived those rights by cutting Vick. Mike Vick is not only free from prison (currently in home confinement), he is free to become the face of an upstart young league called the UFL. With an upcoming bankruptcy hearing, you can bet part of his plan is going to include his pay from the fledgling league, as it seems there is no timetable on a Mike Vick return to the NFL.

I asked league spokesman Greg Aiello if the events of the last 24 hours has changed the timetable on a decision from Commissioner Goodell.

"No," said Aiello."He will address it after the legal proceedings are completed."

When asked about whether or not the legal proceedings included Vick's bankruptcy proceedings, the iron curtain response came.

"We will have no further comment on this matter at this time," said Aiello.

In other words, we now have no idea if the legal proceedings that the Commissioner is waiting on includes the bankruptcy hearings, and we do know that Vick is out of prison. You would think a decision would be coming right up, wouldn't you? Do those statements sound like something is imminent from the NFL offices?

Many people have theorized that the NFL would want to squash any possible competition, but in this case I do not believe this to be the situation. I don't think the NFL feels threatened by the UFL any more than they do by the CFL, as they know they have the premier product. In fostering an atmosphere in which the UFL is seen as taking on players and coaches that are not good enough for the NFL, or that the NFL does not want, it potentially undermines any long-term feasibility they have, and leads them to a best-case scenario of possibly being a football version of what TNA is to WWE.

The NFL has been on a crusade in recent years to suspend and make examples of players who have made marks on the league with their police blotters as much as their play on the field. Chris Henry, Pacman Jones, and Brandon Marshall are among the names who have had battles with the Personal Conduct Policy, which is the way NFL has decided to police themselves and weed the bad apples out before the pie gets put in the oven. What better way to discredit a a potential competitor than to let them raid the coaches who are no longer wanted in the league and to take the players the league doesn't want anyways? Does anyone doubt Pacman will show up on a UFL roster this fall? All that negative publicity the Shield got from Pacman is now someone else's problem. How is this a bad thing for the NFL?

The UFL Salary cap is rumored to be between 12 and 20 million according to a John Clayton article from March, and Jim Fassel, who is coaching the New York squad, has said he would not be opposed to coaching Vick. It sounds like the perfect storm, a movie script, a coach looking for redemption and a player looking to reclaim his career. More importantly, it would take place outside of the NFL, who could then focus on labor talks, European games, and Super Bowl sites.

So with the legal process winding down, still now word on Vick from the NFL. He is already out of jail, how much more of the legal process needs to wind down? The theory is this. The NFL, who would never come out and say this, hopes that the UFL takes Vick off their hands. If he signs a 2 million dollar deal with the UFL, the NFL can then make a decision without taking backlash from people who didn't think he should be in the league or from the people who think the NFL should not suspend him any longer than he already has been. In this case, when the UFL thinks they are getting a coup, they are really doing the NFL a favor by taking Vick. Guys know not to date their rival's ex-girlfriend, and the UFL should know that Vick being free is not just a stroke of luck.

Info from ProFootballTalk.com, Bloomberg.com, ESPN.com, The AJC, and UFL.com were used in this report.

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