EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 21, 2009

Get Vick

Patriots would be perfect fit for ex-con QB

Bill Burt

Welcome to Foxboro. Better yet, welcome to Reclamation Island.

Is there really a better place in professional sports for supremely talented, yet troubled young men to find a way to lose the "troubled" part, than Route 1 in Foxboro?

Mind you, this is not and should not be an every-year occurrence. But two of the NFL's biggest "bad boys," Corey Dillon and Randy Moss, have found peace, tranquility and winning with the New England Patriots.

Which brings us to the newest "bad boy" Michael Vick.

Here are the facts as we know them. Vick:

ÔÇæ Did a heinous thing, basically operating a dog-fighting ring, for gambling purposes, out of his Virginia home and severely abusing a few dozen dogs, reportedly even murdering a few.

ÔÇæServed his time, which was 19 months in federal prison. His sentence includes the next two months in home confinement.

ÔÇæWill be on probation for the next three years.

ÔÇæFiled for bankruptcy (he had signed a 10-year, $130-million contract in 2004) and still is in debt.

ÔÇæWorked out intensely while in prison.

ÔÇæTurns 29 in June.

ÔÇæIs a free agent.

That last fact, in particular, is where Reclamation Island, aka Foxboro and the Patriots enter the picture.

Mind you, this proposal is a two-way deal. Vick needs the Patriots and the Patriots, at the very least, could use a trusted backup quarterback just in case you-know-who gets hurt again.

In a perfect world, some NFL franchise in need of a quarterback would leap at the opportunity to sign an athlete and quarterback of Vick's ilk. He did have a 38-28-1 record as an NFL starter.

But barring a devastating mini-camp injury, most teams are set at quarterback. And the fact that Vick can't leave his home until July 20, his options are few and far between.

Vick coming here, beyond the hoopla and PETA protests, might be his best option.

The sideshow would be too much for most teams. But in New England, after the initial wave, it will always be about Tom Brady's return.

Dillon and Moss are both on the record as saying coming to the Patriots was the first time in their careers that they were able to focus on football rather than their rap sheets. And not being the go-to guy in the locker room every day, for the first times in their careers, was the cherry on top.

Both led the Patriots to greatness their first seasons here.

Dillon ran for a Patriots-record 1,635 yards in 2004, a Super Bowl championship season. And Moss caught an NFL record 23 touchdown passes in the 16-0 regular season of 2007.

Vick wouldn't have to make an assault on any records. What he would bring is athletic ability we have never seen.

You remember the "wildcat" offense the Miami Dolphins used to make mincemeat of the Patriots last September? Well, in the copycat league of copycat leagues, would there be a better "wildcat" performer than Vick? Imagine the possibilities on third-and-1 or fourth-and-1.

Coach Bill Belichick obsesses about gaining a competitive edge on the competition (see Spygate). Vick, who set a quarterback rushing record with 1,039 yards on just 123 carries in 2006, provides that any time he steps on the field.

Imagine the amount of practice time opposing defenses would have to devote to Vick?

The best part, just like the trades to acquire Dillon and Moss, is the limited risk. Unlike the second round and fourth round draft picks expected for Dillon and Moss, respectively, Vick is a freebie.

There will be a public relations hit here. And we know owner Bob Kraft's obsession with public relations.

But there were similar rants when both Dillon and Moss came aboard. But as soon as the games started and both became Patriots, those rants went away

Vick needs a home. He also needs to be eased in after two years away. The fact that the Patriots don't need Vick, makes that transition easier than any place else.

The Patriots get something, too. They get insurance just in case Brady bangs his knee or anything else. They get a guy that, while not the prettiest or "The Protype," who has led a team deep into January before.

It's hard predicting Belichick's intentions. But it's not hard predicting his openness to taking a small chance. He's done it before and it says here he should do it again.

E-mail Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.