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Opinion: "Mike Slick" Has Fooled Us Before

CBSSports.com National Columnist Mike Freeman Explains Why He Remains A Skeptic

Michael Vick sat there on 60 Minutes and said all the right things. So it would be easy to view him as contrite - if he hadn't snowed so many people so many times before, CBSSports.com National Columnist Mike Freeman says.


Read Gregg Doyel's column.


When Michael Vick was with the Atlanta Falcons, there were some on the coaching staff who began to use a phrase normally associated with the Cold War-era lingo of the 1980s: Trust but verify.

Some of the coaching staff pleaded with Vick to study more in his off time, just as other Falcons players did.

"Umm hmm," Vick would reply. "I will."

The pleas would be ignored.

It was a running joke in the Falcons organization: When the team was given time off, the first player out of the parking lot was Vick. He bolted, as one person remembered, like he had a rocket strapped to his ass. Vick would leave as quickly as possible for Virginia, declining invitations from teammates to hang out or go to dinner.

"Michael, you're the quarterback," a Falcons coach once told Vick. "You might want to spend more time with your teammates."

"Umm hmm," he would say. "I will."

He never did.

When Vick would return from Virginia, he would speak about everything he did while there: The women he was sleeping with, the friends he hung with, the clubs he went to, almost everything except the one activity that would lead to his demise. Not even a hint of dogfighting, not a mention, to anyone in the Falcons. Ever.

When team officials repeatedly warned Vick about some of his friends - there were several the Falcons thought were terrible influences on Vick - the quarterback vowed to cut the troublemakers loose. That didn't happen.

When the dogfighting charges came to light, Vick was asked by owner Arthur Blank if the accusations were true. Vick swore they weren't. Commissioner Roger Goodell asked the same question. Vick said nope, not me. Wrong guy. No way.

"Trust but verify" quickly became don't trust him at all.

One Falcons coach eventually referred to the quarterback as "Mike Slick." To this day, there are members of the Falcons organization who, while wishing Vick well, still consider him to be the greatest con man they've ever known.

Vick on his 60 Minutes interview played the part well. He seems sincere. He looks sorry. He acts sorry. Maybe time in a prison cell has indeed changed him. The problem is, we've seen this Vick highlight before.

Vick has a history of repeating mistakes, many of them, all the time. Declaring beforehand he was going to change, only to be the same old Vick in the end.

This time, Vick isn't conning me. Not falling for it. No way, no how. Not this time, Mike Slick. Not this time.

We all make mistakes, but it's learning from those mistakes that truly signals growth. Vick hasn't made one or two, he has made a number of them, and that was before the dogfighting conviction. There's a trail of Mike Slick screw-ups and little evidence he has really changed at all.

Vick also has a history of conning highly intelligent and normally fool-proof authority figures. He conned Blank, a skilled businessman who grew up in New York and co-founded Home Depot. Vick initially fooled Goodell, who is almost impossible to con.

Tony Dungy, one of the most decent and wise men in the history of sports, has handed Vick his full support. That does mean something, but Vick is such a good con man I'm wondering if he has snowed Dungy, too, the way he did Blank and Goodell and a battalion of others.

Again, sitting in a prison cell likely has a life-altering effect on people. Vick's prison visit might've shaken loose all the venomous gobbledygook that saturated his decision-making process for so many years.

Or not.

I wish Vick well. I want him to prove people like me wrong. It's also an abomination that Vick is being asked to apologize and bootlick and kowtow five times a week. It's like people want him to say: Yessum, massa, I won't fight those dogs no mo'.

The hypocrisy is also deafening. NFL.com is selling an authentic Vick jersey for $260 at the same time owners are turning up their nose at Vick.

And teams have lied just like Vick did. Andy Reid told ESPN he had no interest in Vick even as he was seriously considering signing him. Teams that publicly said they had no interest were privately pursuing him.

You knew this would be the case; teams stating their disdain for Vick while privately drooling over him. I quoted this general manger in 2007, two years before Vick was reinstated:

"If he went to jail, and then left prison down the road, he'd still be relatively young, and there'd be a line of 15 to 20 teams waiting to sign him."

The team official continued: "Teams may say one thing publicly. But if he gets out of jail, we'll all be looking at Vick hard. We're all whores in football. You know the saying: We'd sign an ax murderer if he has ability. He'll be back. He won't be back in Atlanta probably, but he'll be back in professional football. You can count on it."

That was 2007.

If you don't like Vick, don't watch him. And if you choose not to trust Mike Slick, that's your prerogative as well.

In fact, that would be very smart.