Monday, August 17, 2009

Vick: 'I Deserved To Lose The $130 Million'

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In his first interview since being released from federal prison and conditionally reinstated in the NFL, former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick admitted he didn’t stand up to his peers, talked about disappointing team owner Arthur Blank, and said he’d earned his fall from grace.

“I deserved to lose the $130 million,” Vick told CBS commentator James Brown during the interview that aired on the Sunday night TV news journal 60 Minutes.

“Why would a guy who was making a $130 million ... on the flip side ... killing dogs ... he don’t deserve it.”

Just two years ago, Vick was the highest paid player in pro football, with the $130 million deal from the Falcons and endorsement contracts with Nike and Atlanta-based AirTran Airways, among others.

But he lost it all when he admitted to bankrolling and participating in an interstate dog-fighting ring.

Instead, Vick faced a 23-month prison sentence — 18 months of it served in a federal penitentiary in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas — and millions of dollars in debt.

He completed his sentence last month, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell allowed him play again, after a six-week suspension.

And on Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Vick to a two-year deal that could net him $6 million.

But Sunday’s interview, recorded last Monday, showed a Vick who appeared a bit vulnerable at Brown’s questions.

“Do you understand why people are outraged?” Brown asked.

“I understand why,” Vick replied. “And I’m going to say it again. Sickens me to my stomach. And it was, you know, the same thing that I’m feeling right now.”

Vick spoke of crying for nights after he was locked up, and said it was then that he realized what he’d done.

“When I was in prison. I was disgusted, you know, because of what I let happen to those animals,” Vick said.

And more than once, he acknowledged regret for not just ending the whole operation.

“I could’ve put a stop to it,” Vick said. “I could’ve walked away from it. I could’ve shut down the whole operation.”

And Vick lamented not standing up to the peers with whom he ran “Bad Newz Kennels,” telling Brown he regretted “not being able to say, or tell ... certain people around me that, ‘Look, we can’t do this anymore. I’m concerned about my career. I’m concerned about my family.’”

But Brown challenged the sincerity of Vick’s apology, asking was he only sorry about what he lost.

“So for the cynics who will say, ‘You know what? I don’t know. Michael Vick might be more concerned about the fact that his career was hurt than dogs were hurt,’” Brown said.

Vick countered by saying that football, and his multimillion-dollar contract didn’t matter in the face of what he’d done.

“It don’t matter,” Vick said. “I deserved to lose that because of what I was doing.”

When Brown asked about his commitment to football with the Falcons, Vick said he could’ve done better being prepared for games.

“I was lazy,” Vick said. “You know, I was the last guy in the building and the first one out.”

And when questioned about lying to Blank, Vick said:

“I can’t ... describe the feeling, you know, the hurt deep inside ... knowing that I disappointed him, knowing that he’d given me every opportunity to come to him ... he cared about me and I took it all for granted.”

Accompanying Vick during the interview were his league mentor, former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy and Humane Society of the United States president Wayne Pacelle, who has enlisted the ex-Falcon as an anti-dog-fighting ambassador.

“If we just punish Mike indefinitely and don’t pivot to this problem in the communities, where kids are victimizing these dogs and then going down a dead-end street themselves — because there are no heroic dog fighters — we will not be doing our job,” Pacelle said.

“I am really hopeful that Mike sticks with this and really reaches these kids because he can turn some of them around.”
Align Center
Dungy has made a reputation outside the NFL helping young men emerge from prison and turn their lives around.

“That’s what I’ve always been concerned about,” Dungy said. “Not just for Michael Vick.”

Vick, for his part, said what he’s done is wrong. And he said he hopes his actions and the resulting consequences help turn more people away from dog fighting.

“I’ve been a living example of what not to do,” Vick said.

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