U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson on Monday brought some closure to the almost year-long Michael Vick saga ... at least for 23 months.
Hudson sentenced the suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback to 23 months in jail after Vick pleaded guilty to involvement in running a dogfighting operation in Surry County, Va. Vick’s sentence was longer than his codefendants’ because he lied about his involvement when he should have been coming clean, Hudson said.
Local Falcons fans, however, thought the punishment was just right, if not too short.
"I’d say I was pleasantly surprised," said Bryant Tench of Clarkesville. "It does seem that celebrities and athletes get preferential treatment. ... I was happy to see the sentencing."
"The sentence is not long enough," said Corey Black of Murrayville. "Lying to the NFL, the Falcons organization and friends is bad enough. If it was anybody other than a famous quarterback, he definitely would have gotten a longer sentence."
Vick voluntarily surrendered on Nov. 19 and started serving his sentence early. As of Monday, Vick had already served 21 days in federal prison, which will be taken out of his 23 month sentence.
John Goodwin, spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States, was also pleased with the lengthy sentence.
"I was not that surprised," Goodwin said. "I knew (Hudson) as being firm. ... He sent a strong message that dogfighting is a dead-end activity. ... I think this has put a spotlight on dogfighting. That has been a silver lining in all of this."
News of Vick’s punishment was received with more sympathy at the Falcons’ offices in Flowery Branch, where team owner Arthur Blank called the day a step in Vick’s "legal journey."
"This is a difficult day for Michael’s family and for a lot of us, including many of our players and fans who have been emotionally invested in Michael over the years," Blank said in a statement Monday. "We sincerely hope that Michael will use this time to continue to focus his efforts on making positive changes in his life, and we wish him well in that regard."
After serving his sentence, some Falcons fans don’t expect Vick to put on another Atlanta jersey.
"Absolutely not," Tench said when asked if he thought Vick would be a Falcon again. "Although, the season they are having shows Vick’s value to the team."
The question still remains whether or not Vick will return to the NFL at all, and the reactions are mixed.
"Yeah, he’ll play again, but he’ll never be a multimillion dollar quarterback," Black said.
Kyle Cash of Gainesville thinks he will play, but not as a quarterback. "If a team gives him a shot, I see him as a slot receiver."
At the very least, Hudson’s sentence could mean that Vick will stay out of the spotlight for the next two years. That news may be a relief to some.
"Really, I was just tired of hearing about it," Tench said.