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For many reasons, Vick is done in Atlanta

In a stroke of poetic justice, the strange and curious career of Michael Vick this week became "a dog's breakfast."

Arthur Blank, owner of Vick's NFL team, the Atlanta Falcons, publicly admitted he was prepared to suspend his quarterback but that Roger Goodell, the league's commissioner, beat him to it.

Blank had read the 18-page federal indictment of Vick for his alleged involvement in dog fighting, and became sickened. Federal indictments, according to legal sources, are seldom so specific as this one and Vick's name was mentioned 50 times in it.

"I know it was 50 because I counted them," said Blank, who gladly inherited Vick when he purchased the team in 2002. A founder of Home Depot, Blank thought he would have a lot more fun with a football team than he did selling sump pumps and generators.

A wiser group than the football experts that he inherited in Atlanta might have warned him that Vick not only came with thrills but also too-frequent chills that have nothing to do with the ghastly things of which he is accused in the indictment.

Vick is a great athlete, something he proved at Virginia Tech. I still regret not casting my Heisman Trophy vote for him in 2000. My reasoning was that he had two years of eligibility left and would win at least one Heisman if not two. Instead he passed up both his junior and senior seasons to turn pro. Immediately he was forecast as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

Early in 2001, two football wise men, the late John Butler and his sidekick, A.J. Smith, left Buffalo and joined the San Diego Chargers.

It so happened that the Chargers, as the worst team in the NFL, had possession of the No. 1 selection. Butler and Smith did not see Vick as a prudent choice to lead their new team out of the football wilderness.

Instead Butler traded the No. 1 pick to Atlanta for a bundle of draft choices and return ace/receiver Tim Dwight.

Their reasoning was that Vick was a great athlete but not a great quarterback and unlikely to become one. They saw him as a player who would, on occasion, make fans rise out of their seats with a collective "Wow! Did you see that?" Butler and Smith saw Vick as an erratic passer who would always choose to run in vital situations. For realistic football men like them, Vick was a highly-skilled curiosity.

They used their trade bounty to draft running back LaDainian Tomlinson, now headed to the Hall of Fame, and quarterback Drew Brees as the Chargers quickly were built into an NFL power.

Meanwhile, Vick became just what Butler and Smith thought he would. In his six seasons in Atlanta, Vick has lived up to his reputation as an inaccurate passer. Last year his completion percentage, 52.6, was one of the lowest of his career. He's never been as high as 60 percent. His passer rating was below his career average. Worse, the Falcons have had only two winning seasons during his stay with them and then crashed the following seasons. Their December record with Vick is 16-25. Last season they had a 5-2 record going into November and finished 7-9.

By nearly all accounts, he is finished in Atlanta, no matter how his November trial turns out. The new coach, Bobby Petrino, would likely choose to rebuild with his college quarterback, Brian Brohm of Louisville, who may be near the top of everyone's 2007 draft list. If Vick is convicted he's unlikely to get the maximum sentence of six years because he's never been arrested before. But if he did get two years or so it would mean that by the time he's released he would have been out of football for three seasons.

It's likely some team would take a chance on him, despite the long layoff. Sports fans love second chances. But there are more dog lovers than football fans and I doubt if any of them would be pulling for him.

Former News Sports Editor Larry Felser appears in Sunday's editions.

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