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Michael Vick

Michael Vick (Leon Halip, Getty Images / September 19, 2010)

Today's flash points include a Harvard professor, Supreme Court nominee and vilified quarterback.

Say hello to Henry Louis Gates Jr., Sonia Sotomayor and Michael Vick.

We sports types will leave Gates to sociologists and Sotomayor to the Senate. But Vick?

He's right in our wheelhouse, at the confluence of ESPN, PETA and NFL.

So we've all had our say.

You think Vick's an unsalvageable dog killer. I suspect that while he was serially stupid and cruel, he's capable of reform.

You believe the feds hosed Vick. I counter that his 23-month sentence was shorter than the norm for felony conspiracy.

You contend the NFL should have banned Vick forever. I cite Leonard Little.

But enough already. Now that league strongman Roger Goodell has tiptoed into the (cess?) pool — his reinstatement of Vick on Monday was painfully vague — the story moves blessedly into the football arena.

To wit: How valuable, if at all, is a 29-year-old, three-time Pro Bowler who hasn't taken a snap since New Year's Eve 2006?

Which, if any, teams possess the ownership, coaching staff and locker room resolute enough to handle the Vick sideshow?

How influential might former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy become?

First, let's be clear about Vick's career arc. After leading the Atlanta Falcons to the NFC championship game during the 2004 season, he declined in two consecutive years.

The Falcons were a combined 15-17 in 2005 and '06, and although Vick rushed for a quarterback-record 1,039 yards in the latter season, his completion percentage (52.6) was the worst of his four full years.

Say what you will about Vick's transcendent speed and flair. Pro quarterbacks must throw effectively to prosper, and he did not those last two seasons.

That said, Vick might be able to refine his mechanics and reads. Moreover, his natural talents are tailored for a receiver/returner/situational-quarterback hybrid.

The layoff? At the risk of countless nastygrams, two words: Ted Williams.

Please, please, please understand. This is not to equate the character of a war hero to that of a felon. Or to maintain that Vick belongs in the same sports conversation with arguably the greatest hitter in baseball history.

But Williams gave three seasons of his prime to military service, and upon returning to the Boston Red Sox in 1946 earned MVP honors with a .342 average, 38 home runs and 123 RBI.

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