Vick's licked: Time to cut a deal Mark Kriegel FOXSports.com, Sportswriters aren't supposed to have rooting interests, but I declare mine now: I'm hoping Michael Vick takes the plea deal. That way everybody can forget about this horrific dogfighting business and return their attention to more humane endeavors, like NFL football. A man of Vick's extraordinary talents — gifts that enable him to evade those trained to do him serious bodily harm — must find great difficulty in accepting a loss. The time has come, however, for him to finally see the field for what it is. There are seven — seven! — witnesses against him, four from the original complaint and the three ex-pals with whom he was charged. There is expected to be a mountain of forensic evidence, not the least of which are the canine carcasses unearthed at Vick's Virginia property. Dogs can't testify, of course, but imagine the looks on the jurors' faces when they are shown photographic exhibits of the brutalized animals. Let us grant certain stipulations in Vick's favor. There is, as all sports fans by now know, a presumption of innocence in criminal proceedings. What's more, the witnesses are certain to be unsavory types. Finally, let's accept for the sake of argument, the idea of selective prosecution. Would the federal government bring in backhoes to dig up the property at 1915 Moonlight Road in Surry County, Virginia if it didn't belong to a famous quarterback? I think not. Still, none of this is much help to Vick — especially not if he's guilty, which I certainly think he is. That's not to say he's beyond redemption. If nothing else, this culture is abundantly forgiving. Mike Tyson made a comeback after a conviction for rape and an ear-biting incident. Ray Lewis, who pleaded and testified against his friends in a homicide case, is accepted as NFL royalty. Don Imus will be back before you know it. So, unless Vick's lawyers have some super secret legal bomb (and if they had it, do you think his pals would've ratted so fast?), he should negotiate the best deal possible, avoid the superseding indictment, do his time, and get back on the field while he still can. He's 27. A single conspiracy charge carries a maximum of five years in jail. A loss in court on multiple counts would likely mean the loss of his career. But a plea that minimizes his time would maximize what time he has left on the field. And as this season's already a lost cause, he should probably start serving his sentence as soon as possible. A man who does his time deserves another chance. And a year or two from now — hypothetically, of course — Michael Vick will get plenty. One thing still bothers me, though. Sure, I was properly outraged by the dead and dying dogs, by the various apparatus involved in their captivity and torture. But should I really have been so surprised? In his column last month in the Fort Myers' News-Press, Deion Sanders — football royalty himself — tried to offer some context: "...some people enjoy proving they have the biggest, toughest dog on the street. You're probably not going to believe this, but I bet Vick loves the dogs that were the biggest and the baddest. Maybe, he identified with them in some way." Gee, you think? You think Michael Vick, who's had to prove himself on the streets and on the field since he was a kid, could have possibly aspired to be the biggest, baddest dog? You think he's the only guy in the NFL who's been too close to the dogfighting scene? Of course, Deion Sanders was lampooned, then censured. The NFL Network, for whom he works as a commentator, apparently owns his likeness and opinions. The league's television arm quickly ended his career as a newspaper columnist. See what I mean? The sole good to come out of this, as my colleague Tony Siragusa pointed out, is that it stopped people from talking about those felonious Cincinnati Bengals. Now, at least, everybody can get back to football, which unlike dogfighting, no one seems to care if you bet on. I am not equating dogfighting and football. Football players can't bite (not even Tony Romo, I don't think). Still, it's worth noting that football has produced its own violent culture (check out Pros and Cons: The Criminals who Play in the NFL by Jeff Benedict and Don Yaeger, or more recently, the arrest statistics cited by Pacman Jones' lawyers) and its own celebrated forms of brutality. NFL football is spectacularly violent, and — don't you lie — that's why we love it. Football players are compared most often, not to pit bulls, but to gladiators. And while death is quite infrequent, maiming occurs with regularity. Tim Layden's recent cover story, "Big Hits," in Sports Illustrated quotes Ray Lewis: "The game is about taking a man down, physically and mentally." That's the truth of it. Ray Lewis is justifiably admired in his huddle and around the country because he's the big hitter. To borrow a phrase, he's the big dog. But by now you've heard more than you care to about a vocation that requires the giving and taking of these huge shots. The consequences include blackouts, concussions, post-concussion syndrome, orthopedic ruin, neurological damage, dementia, depression, early onset of Alzheimer's, absurd mortality rates. Blah, blah, blah. Let's get back to the important stuff. Cop that plea, Michael Vick. And the rest of you, place your bets. Get the chips. Bring the beer. Are you ready for some football?