JaMarcus Russell is in the shotgun formation, barking out the signals. To his right stands second-year running back Darren McFadden. To his left is a man who once roamed the NFL landscape, someone who accomplished things no other has done in the history of the game.
Could it be? No, it can't be. Russell shakes his head, blinks his eyes, does a double-take. Are you kidding me? In a Raiders uniform? Yes, it's possible.
Raiders fans who hoped to see Michael Vick playing for the Atlanta Falcons today at the Coliseum won't get their wish. However, several of Vick's former teammates embrace the prospect of Vick's joining the Raiders after his release from Leavenworth State Prison in Kansas.
"You can just
"Would we like to see it? Yes. Would it add a whole lot to your offense? Yes, it would, man, but until it happens, you just imagine how it (would be)."
Vick starred at quarterback for the Falcons from 2001-06. He directed the Falcons to an upset playoff victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in 2002, to the NFC Championship game two seasons later and set an NFL record for a quarterback by rushing for more than 1,000 yards in
He owned Atlanta, figuratively if not literally. No. 7 Vick jerseys were seen everywhere around town. Games sold out week after week. Yet, the cat-quick quarterback wasn't quite as elusive as everyone thought, or, perhaps, he thought.
In July 2007, Virginia authorities did what so many defenders failed to do. They sacked Vick. He and three others were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of sponsoring a dog-fighting operation.
Vick and his cohorts ultimately were charged with competitive dog-fighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting and conducting the enterprise across state lines. The dogs that belonged to "Bad News Kennels," according to the indictment, were housed, trained and fought at a property owned by Vick.
The Falcons suspended Vick on July 24, 2007, for training camp. The NFL trumped that by suspending Vick indefinitely without pay on Aug. 24, the day Vick announced he would plead guilty to a federal dogfighting charge on Aug. 27.
On Dec. 10, Vick received a 23-month sentence in Leavenworth and three years' probation. He is scheduled for early release in July, though he could be admitted to a halfway house as early as January.
So the time is nearing when Vick will be out of prison and in search of NFL employment. That is, provided NFL commissioner Roger Goodell approves Vick's expected application for reinstatement, and the Falcons resolve Vick's contract situation. Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in a recent interview that he is supportive of Vick's returning to the NFL, just not with the Falcons. Vick remains under contract to the Falcons.
"Michael Vick was indefinitely suspended after he pleaded guilty," said Greg Aiello, the NFL senior vice president of public relations. "If he applies for reinstatement following his release from jail, the commissioner would review all the facts and make a decision."
Vick did not respond to written and oral requests for an interview for this story.
Raiders wide receiver Ashley Lelie said there's only one place for Vick to go. He, cornerback DeAngelo Hall and Griffith said Vick would be content to back up Russell and fit in whichever way the Raiders deem best.
"You have to sign him, if you're the Raiders," Lelie said. "Trust me, I've played against him before. You don't want him on the other team. I've seen what he can do."
Lelie said it boggles the mind to imagine the wrinkles the Raiders could install in their offense with Russell, Vick and McFadden on the field at the same time.
Lelie, Griffith and Hall once called Vick a teammate. They still consider him a close friend.
To a man, they say, they are so convinced of Vick's character, work ethic, dedication and repentance over his transgression that they would put up their lucrative contracts as collateral in case Vick ran afoul of the law again, were the Raiders to sign him.
"Oh, yeah, definitely," Hall said. "I wouldn't have any second thought about doing it. I'll put in my contract the same stipulations or whatever, man. I know anytime something like that happens, you wake up and you smell the roses.
"After talking to Mike, he definitely knows what's happening. He has a family, kids, fiancée. He definitely wised up and got those riff-raffs away from him. He knows who his true friends are. He'll move on and go from there."
Raiders coaches and front-office employees aren't allowed to comment about the prospect of Vick's joining the Raiders.
Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Knapp worked closely with Vick in the same capacity for the Falcons from 2004-06. He said Vick is caring, loyal and a hard worker.
"I love the way he had fun playing the game," Knapp said. "He was a hard worker, was on the path of understanding what it takes to be a quarterback in this league. So, he was making great progress when this unfortunate thing happened.
"I know the perception based on the issue that he had makes it tough to believe, but on a daily basis, I really enjoyed working with the guy because he came to work, did everything we asked of him and is a caring guy."
By all accounts, Vick is in shape, accountable for his actions and taking steps toward making amends for his past. Given that, Griffith said, the Raiders would be foolish to pass on a shot at signing him.
"If you look around the league right now, you don't see a whole lot of Mike Vicks out there," Griffith said. "You see good football players, but the things that he did when he was active in the league, it makes you shake your head, man, like, 'Wow.' "... I just hope that we get a chance to get him."
Contact Steve Corkran at firstname.lastname@example.org.