NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – An agent for suspended NFL star Michael Vick told a bankruptcy court on Thursday that he hopes the ex-Atlanta Falcons quarterback could return to the league by September.
Joel Segal testified as part of a hearing to assess Vick's plan to emerge from bankruptcy, which was designed with the goal of Vick returning to a professional football career. Vick, who left a federal prison in Kansas last week to travel to Virginia, was in court for the first time in the case.
To return to a team, Vick still must apply to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to be reinstated. He hasn't yet done so, Segal said, and plans first to finish his 23-month sentence for bankrolling a dogfighting operation. He will return to his family and community, and when he is ready, start working with strength and quarterback coaches.
Segal said he'd try to negotiate a one- or two-year contract that includes incentives for playing time and a starting position. Segal said he hasn't spoken to teams because Vick is still under contract with the Falcons, though the team has said he won't play for Atlanta again.
"He'll let me know when he's ready for that, and when Mike's ready, we have a plan," Segal said.
Vick is expected to testify at the hearing, which is scheduled to last through Friday. Much of the testimony has detailed some of the ways he plans to spend his life once he is released from federal custody in July. He could be transferred to home confinement in late May.
"You will hear from Mr. Vick his future intentions, how he's going to change the way he lives his life," his lawyer, Michael Blumenthal, told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Frank J. Santoro.
One of those changes will be a construction job, Blumenthal said. Vick has lined up a 40-hour-a-week, $10-an-hour job at one of W.M. Jordan Co.'s 40 commercial construction jobs, said John Robert Lawson, whose father helped start the Newport News company.
Lawson, 57, said that he has known Vick for more than 10 years and that they have been involved in charitable work together. He said Vick's representatives approached him when the former hometown hero was turned away by other employers.
"I believe all of us make mistakes, and once you've fulfilled your commitment and paid the price, you should be given a second chance," Lawson said in a telephone interview. "He's not a bad person. He made some bad choices."
Once one of the NFL's highest-paid players, Vick began to slide into financial ruin after details about the brutality of his dogfighting enterprise enraged the public. But court records show they were already in serious disarray because of lavish spending and poor investments.
Earlier this week, Vick and the Falcons agreed that he would pay back $6.5 million of his Atlanta contract, moving closer to cutting ties with a team that doesn't want him. Vick was suspended indefinitely after his 2007 indictment, and Goodell has said he will review Vick's status after he is released.
A committee representing most of Vick's unsecured creditors has endorsed his Chapter 11 plan because the alternative — a Chapter 7 liquidation of his assets — would not provide them any portion of his future earnings. But some other parties, including a former agent who won a $4.6 million judgment against Vick, opposed the plan.