Michael Vick's return to football was always going to be risky. With his federal conviction on dogfighting charges and subsequent 18-month prison sentence, he'd been the focus of a fiery public discourse that touched on race, class, animal rights and, ultimately, second chances. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, reinstated Vick last July even after his own investigation had yielded mixed responses from former and current players and coaches. Jeffrey Lurie, the Eagles' owner who signed Vick, brought him on board only after a lengthy meditation on Vick's past.
The relative quiet of Vick's comeback was shattered at around 2 a.m. on June 25 outside a Virginia Beach nightclub, where he'd been celebrating his 30th birthday, and where his codefendant in his dogfighting case, Quanis Phillips, was shot (he has refused to disclose his injuries but was released from the hospital later that day). Vick's role that night is so far unclear at best (surveillance video has demonstrated inconsistencies in his story), and his career in the NFL, appears near its end.
The Eagles said speculation that they'll release Vick is untrue, but the team's statement felt like the empty vote of confidence that often precedes the firing of a coach. Goodell may have to revisit Vick's reinstatement—the commissioner had warned the quarterback that his margin for error was small. Even if Vick is cleared, Goodell may level a punishment similar to the one he imposed on Ben Roethlisberger, whom he suspended for six games for violating the league's personal code of conduct even though he was never charged for an alleged sexual assault.
Vick's first year in Philadelphia was uneventful. He attended church, he told children that dogfighting was wrong and he became a protégé of Tony Dungy. But all that good p.r. has washed away. The faded star may be facing his final curtain.