Just moments after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Michael Vick was conditionally reinstated to the league, I spoke with Titans TE Alge Crumpler, who played with the quarterback on the Falcons from 2001 to 2006 and was one of his closer friends on the team. Crumpler told me he has spoken to Vick a few times since his release from prison — most recently a few days before his federally appointed home confinement came to an end.
Here’s what Crumpler had to say about his former teammate:
On Vick’s sincerity, remorse and the steps he has to take:
“I know he’s sincere. He’s just got to prepare himself for a difficult road. Now that he’s gotten his prison sentence out the way and his home confinement completed, he’s re-entering a world with some people that have some very sensitive feelings. He really has to have the right people around him. If he’s committed to have a man of Tony Dungy’s stature to counsel him and mentor, he’s on the right track. I couldn’t think of anyone better.
“It’s not going to be as simple as taking snaps and playing football for Michael. Michael can get back to playing football. There are some things in life he’s going to have to prove to people.”
On the side of Vick that most people don’t know:
“His comfort zone is in the locker room. That was where he was the most comfortable. There was never a bad day for Michael to show up in the locker room and go to work. He might not have progressed in certain areas that people wanted him to, in terms of performing as a pure pocket passer. Everybody wanted Michael to be different than what he was, but for him to be in that locker room and joke around with us, everyone could see the type of person Michael was.
“Michael had a different life away from us, as teammates, and that’s what got him in trouble. I told Michael we could have hung out more off the field. We had the most perfect relationship on the field but rarely did anything off the field. … If myself, Warrick [Dunn] hung around him more, he might not have put himself in that situation. That’s in the past, though.
“When I think of Ray Lewis, I think of him as the great player that he is. When I think of Kobe Bryant, I don’t think of anything but the great player he is. From my conversations with Michael, he wants people to think of him the same way.”
On Vick’s professional future:
“I just don’t want some coach to throw him out there to win the game. I want him to be in the best situation to be around five years from now. He needs somebody to work with him to refine his game and go from there. I want Michael to be a quarterback.
“I don’t know his frame of mind, if he wants a starting job right away or what. I think he needs a coach that can help him develop his game. The question is, is anybody going to give him the opportunity to do that — or will they sign him only to fill seats?
“One thing I know is when I played with Michael, there was really no need for scouting reports or studying teams’ tendencies from the previous four games. Everybody tried to reinvent the wheel to defend Michael.”