Vick Free, But Football Future Fuzzy

Former quarterback released from federal custody Monday

Former NFL star Michael Vick is a free man after serving his 23-month sentence for bankrolling a dog-fighting operation.

But it remains to be seen if the suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback will be able to return to the field. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Vick indefinitely prior to the 2007 season, and has not given any timetable for ruling on Vick's possible reinstatement, according to The Associated Press.

It is expected that Vick will soon sit down face-to-face with Goodell, who has said he would review Vick's status after he completed his federal sentence.

Goodell's decision could go any number of ways, from extending Vick's suspension to allowing him back in the game immediately. Training camps open next weekend, so Goodell would have to act quickly to get Vick back in play for the coming season.

In nearly three years as commissioner, Goodell has taken a hard line against players who violate of the NFL's personal conduct policy, in hope of protecting the league's image. He has said that Vick must demonstrate genuine remorse to be reinstated.

It is also not clear whether any NFL team would even sign the free agent. In June, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff relinquished the team's contractual rights to Vick, saying that if he is returns to football, it would be with another club.

Vick, 29, spent most of his sentence behind bars in Leavenworth, Kan. For the past two months, however, he has been under home confinement wearing an electronic monitor and working a $10-an-hour job for a construction company in Hampton, Va. At the end of June, he gave up the construction job to be a program aide at the Boys & Girls Clubs.

And he didn't just pay for his crime in time. Vick forfeited $70 million from a 10-year contract, lost millions in endorsements and paid $928,000 in restitution for the care of the victimized pit bulls. He's in bankruptcy proceedings to address more than $20 million in debt.

Vick will remain on probation for three years. He also is under a three-year suspended sentence for a state dogfighting conviction.
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