FLOWERY BRANCH — Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White has no regrets for supporting disgraced quarterback Michael Vick over the last two years.
White, a Pro Bowl wideout last season, spoke with Vick "three or four times" while his suspended teammate was a federal inmate in Leavenworth, Kan. He indicated the calls were arranged with prison officials by Falcons senior director of player development Kevin Winston.
"Mike's already paid his dues," White said Wednesday, a few hours Vick was released from prison and placed under home confinement. "He wants to play football. I think if he gets reinstated before the season, there'll be a couple of teams that will be after him and give him a chance to play."
White became Vick's friend when both were Atlanta teammates in 2005-06. A few hours after a federal judge sentenced the quarterback to prison on Dec. 10, 2007, White was one of five Falcons fined for violating NFL regulations for altering their uniforms with tributes to Vick.
Along with cornerback Chris Houston and former Falcons DeAngelo Hall and Alge Crumpler, White received a $10,000 fine for what the league described as "displaying an unauthorized personal message." Former teammate Joe Horn was fined $7,500 for raising White's jersey to display a T-shirt that read "Free Mike Vick."
"Yeah, I paid my fine," White said. "We disputed it, and they didn't give me any of my money back, which kind of upset me."
Crumpler, who visited Vick in prison, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press that he will speak with Vick soon. During their six years together, Crumpler roomed with Vick on Falcons road trips, and they combined to earn seven Pro Bowl invitations.
"I plan on talking with Mike over the weekend," wrote Crumpler, now a tight end for the Tennessee Titans. "He needs time to sit with his family."
Vick is still serving an indefinite NFL suspension that followed his indictment for bankrolling a dogfighting conspiracy.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that Vick must complete his sentence, undergo a background check and meet with league officials before the NFL will consider reinstatement.
Atlanta receiver Brian Finneran, a teammate of Vick after the former Virginia Tech quarterback was drafted No. 1 overall in 2001, believes the Falcons have "moved on" two years after federal investigators uncovered a grisly dogfighting ring in Surry, Va.
"Ninety-five percent of the guys don't know Mike or were never around him, so it's almost non-issue for us, as a team," Finneran said. "Some of the guys that were friends with Mike that are still here, myself and (Michael) Jenkins and Roddy and a handful of other guys wish Mike the best."
A year after a 4-12 season that included the sudden resignation of first-year coach Bobby Petrino, the Falcons rebuilt quickly in 2008, going 11-5 and earning an NFC wild-card spot. Mike Smith, who replaced Petrino, worked with new general manager Thomas Dimitroff to draft quarterback Matt Ryan No. 3 overall and fill the void left by Vick.
"I don't know Mike. I've not coached Mike," Smith said. "I'm sympathetic for the situation he's in right now."
Ryan, the NFL offensive rookie of the year, doesn't mind answering questions about Vick even though they've never met.
"It's part of the job," Ryan said. "You have to understand that going into it. You know, wish him the best, and I think he'll do a great job whenever he gets reinstated, and hopefully he does."
Though Falcons owner Arthur Blank has several times that Vick won't play for the team again, the quarterback is still on the team's roster.
NFL rules allow teams to trade suspended players. However, if no other club is willing to work out a trade, Atlanta likely would release Vick and thus cost the Falcons $7.1 million under the league's 2009 salary cap of $127 million.