What Michael Vick did was reprehensible. But his apology Monday seemed to indicate he now understands that.
Vick, the gifted quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, could have chosen to read a carefully phrased statement following his guilty plea in federal court on a dogfighting charge. He could have foregone a statement altogether or offered one that attempted to downplay his role in a Virginia dogfighting and gambling operation. He could have skipped admitting that he was involved in killing several dogs that didn't measure up in the pit.
Instead, to his credit, he showed real contrition. He took personal responsibility for his actions. He admitted lying to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Coach Bobby Petrino and his teammates.
He apologized to "all the young kids out there for my immature acts." He said, "dogfighting is a terrible thing." He said, "I need to grow up." He did not refer to notes and assured that what he said came from the heart.
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It would be naive to deny that at least part of this staged apology was aimed at District Judge Henry Hudson, who will sentence Vick in December. The judge has let it be known that accepting responsibility for one's misdeeds would be a factor at the sentencing.
But unlike many who claim to "take full responsibility" for mistakes, Vick's mea culpa will be followed by real consequences. In addition to almost certain jail time, Vick has been suspended from playing in the NFL and has lost endorsement contracts worth millions.
Vick also will be -- appropriately -- the poster boy for opponents of dogfighting. And we hope the spotlight this incident has cast on this twisted pastime will serve to root out other dogfighting rings and bring public pressure to bear against all blood sports that pit animals against each other for humans' entertainment.
But we also think Vick should be given the chance to redeem himself and to return to professional football someday. He would not be the first NFL player to have committed a serious crime -- some more serious than dogfighting -- and to have been given a second chance.
Vick, and no one else, is responsible for his predicament. He is guilty of terrible judgment. Whatever enjoyment he got from watching dogs tear each other apart is a sickness he needs to address.
But this is a nation of second chances. Vick has a long road ahead, but he still may have something to offer society as both a player and an example of someone who turns his life around. Time will tell.
Dogfighting is heinous, but Michael Vick has shown remorse and hope of reforming.
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