FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Arthur Blank won’t bring Michael Vick back to Atlanta.
That doesn’t mean the Falcons owner wouldn’t want to see the tarnished quarterback get a second NFL chance.
Hours after Vick left a federal penitentiary after serving most of a 23-month sentence for financing a dogfighting ring, Blank — who once gave Vick a $130 million contract — said Wednesday the once-charismatic star is taking positive steps by wanting to work with humane societies and making other changes in his life.
“I believe in second chances,” Blank said shortly before the NFL owners’ meetings ended in South Florida. “I believe in redemption.”
Even for Vick, who was clearly a Blank favorite when he wore No. 7 for Atlanta and not No. 33765-183 in the federal prison system. Blank famously pushed Vick on the field in a wheelchair when the quarterback had a broken leg in 2003, and exchanged letters with the player during Vick’s time in prison.
The working relationship — player and owner — ended with Vick’s betrayal. The personal relationship, somehow, has persevered.
“I have not spoken to him face to face,” Blank said. “I have indicated that I would do anything that I can do on a personal level that would be constructive and productive for Michael and that still hasn’t changed. But we’ve certainly been in communication.”
But Vick won’t be returning to the Falcons as a player.
“We’ve made it clear Michael’s not going to play for us again, as you know,” Blank said. “Right now his salary is being tolled so it has no effect on our cap, beyond the allocation of signing bonus which happens under any circumstances. So we’ll deal with it at the time we think is correct.”
Vick slipped quietly out of the prison in Leavenworth, Kan., after serving 19 months. Accompanied by his fiancee, Vick was driving home to Virginia to begin two months of home confinement at his five-bedroom house in Hampton before a scheduled released from federal custody on July 20.
Sometime after that, he’ll meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who’ll then start the process of deciding if Vick should be allowed to return to the NFL.
“I don’t know what else I can add,” Goodell said Wednesday. “Once he’s concluded that, I will make a judgment based on what he tells me and what I can determine from speaking to others and a final background check on this and make a determination at the right time.”
No teams have publicly said they would welcome Vick on their club, for several reasons — the biggest of which is his contract rights are still owned by the Falcons, who may seek to trade him or give him his outright release if Goodell reinstates the former Virginia Tech star.
If a team takes a chance on Vick, that club will surely have to deal with a public-relations uproar.
“We’re not looking at that situation. We don’t have an interest there,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said.
But at the same time, Irsay suggested Vick should have a chance to redeem himself.
“It’s always great when you hear about the stories of people coming back from (mistakes) early in their life and turning things around,” Irsay said.