Published May 21, 2009
HAMPTON, Va. – Suspended NFL star Michael Vick arrived at his Virginia home in a car with blackout curtains Thursday after being released from federal prison to begin home confinement and try to resume his pro football career.
Four cars pulled up to Vick's five-bedroom brick home at the end of a cul-de-sac at about 8:25 a.m Thursday. The caravan was led by a black Kia Sedona with curtains shielding the back seat from view and sunshields on the front side windows. Vick was in the Sedona along with his fiancee, Kijafa Frink, said Chris Garrett, a member of Vick's support and legal team.
"He's happy to be reunited with his family," Garrett said 10 minutes after the cars arrived.
About 90 minutes later, two probation officers and Vick's Virginia-based attorney, Larry Woodward, arrived. The officers outfitted Vick with an electronic monitoring device he will wear for the two months he spends under home confinement. They walked with him onto his back deck to make sure it was working properly.
They did not answer reporters' questions.
In a brief statement, Woodward said Vick is technically a furloughed federal inmate and not permitted to speak with the media without permission from the Bureau of Prisons. The process to obtain that permission is underway, Woodward said, but he did not say how long it will take or entertain any questions before driving away.
The statement capped a whirlwind 2 1/2 hours.
When the caravan arrived, a man got out of the lead vehicle and moved aside orange cones blocking the driveway, then the Sedona drove into a garage on the side of the house and out of sight of the street. The other three cars followed. Two men, presumably security guards who were part of the traveling party, stood in the driveway and three others took up posts near the front door as though to prevent anyone from approaching. The guards also walked around to the back yard, checking the in-ground pool area surrounded by a wrought-iron fence for intruders.
Vick spent 19 months in federal prison after his conviction for financing a dogfighting operation. Once released at about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, Vick traveled the 1,200 miles in about 28 hours to get to the home, which he will share with Frink and their two children — the youngest of whom, London, was born just before he went to prison.
He will spend the next two months being monitored at home and working a $10-an-hour job as a laborer for a construction company. He's scheduled to be released from federal custody on July 20, and then faces three more years of supervised probation.
Vick's construction job is part of his probation, and he was to find out more about the restrictions he faces in home confinement from the probation officers, though it was not clear if those guideline were laid out Thursday.
His ultimate goal is a return to the NFL. Chief among his challenges is rehabilitating his image and convincing the public and Commissioner Roger Goodell that he is truly sorry for his crime, and prepared to live a different life.
"It goes beyond, 'Has he paid his debt to society?' Because I think that from a legal standpoint and financially and personally, he has," Falcons owner Arthur Blank said at an NFL owners' meeting Wednesday.
Part of Vick's problem was the company he kept, Blank said, and weeding out the bad influences and associating with people who have his best interests at heart will be a key to redemption and a possible return to the NFL.
"There's the expression 'you are what you eat.' To some extent, you are who you hang with too, and that does have an effect on lives for all of us," he said.
Vick's NFL future remains a mystery, but former Falcons receiver Roddy White says his teammate should be allowed to return to the league.
"Mike's already paid his dues," White said Wednesday. "He wants to play football. I think if he gets reinstated before the season, there'll be a couple of teams that will be after him and give him a chance to play."
Vick has said he will partner with the Humane Society of the United States assisting the animal rights group in a program to eradicate dogfighting among ubran teens.
Billy Martin, one of Vick's attorneys, said Wednesday that his client wanted to work the humane society because "they were probably one of the harshest critics (of Vick) pre-indictment."
Martin added that it's time for Vick to stop talking about what his plans are.
"No more words. Now it's time for Mike's deeds to speak for themselves."
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Vick doesn't deserve that chance until he passes psychological tests proving he is capable of feeling genuine remorse.
"Our position would be the opportunity to play in the NFL is a privilege, not a right," PETA spokesman Dan Shannon said.
While Vick is reviled by some, he still can draw a crowd. His anticipated return to Hampton created a buzz. About a dozen people lingered around well past 1 a.m. Thursday morning, a few donning Vick jerseys.
On Wednesday there was a steady stream of curious onlookers flowing through the cul-de-sac as news spread that he was heading back to town.
Some conveniently jogged by, others biked and many simply drove in hoping to get a peek.
A couple of college-age men climbed out onto a first-story roof across the street from Vick's home and sat down to absorb the scene, then tossed a football in the yard Wednesday.
And of course, there was no shortage of media, satellite TV trucks and photographers.
While there were no signs welcoming the fallen star back to the home he will share with his fiancee and children, neighbors seemed relieved that the gathering wasn't larger.
Doug Walter, who lives two doors away, said he was pleasantly surprised when he got home from work to find only media on the street, and not the "radical element" he feared.
A criminal defense attorney and self-described dog lover, Walter said he cringed at some of the details of violence against animals that came out in the case, but also believes that Vick deserves a second chance at football and hopes that he wins reinstatement to the NFL.
"I think that he has paid the penalty — a rather steep penalty — which our system deemed appropriate, and I think he should be allowed to move on with his life," Walter said.
That's just the kind of neighbor that Vick will need as he works first to convince the public, Goodell and others that he returns a different man than the one who became known for bankrolling a dogfighting ring and killing dogs.