Michael Vick Ignoring His NFL Mentor
If E.T. can phone home, then Michael Vick can take a few moments to call, text, e-mail or fax Dan Reeves, his former coach with the Atlanta Falcons and a primary reason No. 7 became the NFL's version of an extra terrestrial in cleats.
"I've even written, and I've tried to make appointments to see him in prison, but they never got back to me," Reeves told FanHouse, sounding more perplexed than perturbed by the situation.
Here's what that situation is: Vick will end his two months of home confinement in Hampton, Va., on Monday, a stint that followed nearly 18 months at Leavenworth for his dogfighting mess -- and Reeves can't reach him. He wants to help him. He can help him, but Vick isn't giving the guy a chance.
"I don't know if he doesn't want to talk to me because he's embarrassed or what," said Reeves, who lives in Atlanta, where he coached Vick for the first three seasons of his career. "I don't know, but I want him to know that I'm on his side. I can't do anything more than I'm trying to do.
"If he's looking for somebody to stand up for him and to be a father figure and not try to make a buck like most of the people around him are doing -- you know, I just want to help him. I wish he would call me."
Michael, please call Dan.
If you need his number, I've got it.
This is unfortunate. Nobody did more to further Vick's pro career than Reeves. As grand poobah and head coach of the Falcons, Reeves had his lieutenants work a deal with the San Diego Chargers for the No. 1 pick overall in the 2001 NFL draft, in order to snatch Vick out of Virginia Tech. During Vick's six-year career, his best season came in 2002 during his last full year under Reeves. Back then, Vick finished with his highest passer rating, his most passing yards and his fewest interceptions.
Reeves was wrongfully fired down the stretch of the 2003 season by owner Arthur Blank, after the Falcons did the predictable by sputtering without Vick (broken leg during the preseason). Even so, Vick continued to progress so well the next year that he used the momentum from his Reeves days to reach the NFC championship game during the first season of the Jim Mora regime.
Not only that, Reeves helped Vick as a player and as a person with the hiring of a speech coach to smooth out Vick's many rough edges.
So this also is sad, especially since Reeves has been one of Vick's consistent supporters through the years.
"I think it's terrible what he did with those dogs. It's against the law. He shouldn't have been doing it, but he's paid a price for it, and it's been an unbelievable price to pay," said Reeves, 65, a future Hall of Famer, who is now an NFL radio analyst for Westwood One broadcasts. "Monetarily, physically, mentally. He's got a tough road ahead of him, but pro football is going to be easy compared to three years of probation. You won't have to worry about him zeroing in on trying to be the best football player that he can be, because he won't have time to do anything else."
That makes sense. So does Reeves' view that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell should lift his indefinite suspension of Vick sooner than later.
After that, Reeves said somebody in the league should give Vick a chance to show whether or not he still can dazzle folks with his magic feet and strong left arm. "I mean, he's sitting there with two strikes against him, and he's got a fastball pitcher throwing at him," Reeves said. "If he's not smart enough to know that, then he'll be banned for the rest of his life. There are so many things positive for him. If anybody worries about him, they're going to drug test him and all of those things. He's going to have a lot of things to keep him straight, and I think he wants to."
Reeves doesn't know that for sure. They haven't chatted since the early days of Vick's dogfighting mess more than two years ago.
What Reeves does know is how to coach. He won more games while calling shots from an NFL sidelines than anybody not named Shula, Halas, Landry, Lambeau, Brown or Noll. He took four teams to the Super Bowl. Plus, during his four decades in the league as a player, assistant coach and head coach, he dealt with superlative quarterbacks, ranging from Roger Staubach to John Elway.
You just know Reeves has the definitive plan for helping Vick return to the NFL at 29, after a two-year layoff.
"No question, Michael needs the practice time and also the meeting time, because he's going to be like a rookie again out there," Reeves said. "Whatever team he goes to, it won't be the same terminology that he had before. He went through three systems in the first five years he was with the Falcons, but the terminology (when you go to another team) is like a new language.
"And then the physical part of it, he needs to take a lot of snaps in practice, and he probably needs to be involved in a couple of scrimmages with some other teams, and then play as much as he can in preseason.
"That's the reason I hope the commissioner reinstates him -- you know, quickly, because if he goes much longer without being out there after missing all of this time, it's going to be awfully tough."
So what will Goodell do?
Reeves sighed, and said, "Well, some of the things I've heard from people who are supposedly in the know, it sounds like he's thinking about maybe suspending him for some more time. I just think that's a big mistake. He has paid enough of a price, but I will say this: I'm not Roger Goodell, where I can sit and talk to him face to face. There may be something there that he feels uncomfortable with."
If so, Reeves could help Vick make Goodell feel more comfortable, but Vick has to give Reeves a chance to do so.
Like by answering the phone.
Terence Moore is a national columnist and commentator for FanHouse. He is a frequent panelist on "Rome Is Burning", an ESPN show hosted by Jim Rome, that is seen Monday through Friday at 4:30 PM ET. Moore spent more than three decades working for major newspapers, including 26 years as an award-winning sports columnist for the San Francisco Examiner and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He resides in Atlanta .