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Michael Vick reflects on his dogfighting past in his soon-to-debut TV series, 'The Michael Vick Project'

Michael Vick

Michael Vick returned to the site of his gruesome dogfighting crimes, looked at an empty dog bowl left behind in a dingy cage and wondered how he ever could have risked fame, freedom and fortune for "Bad Newz Kennels."

"This is hard to imagine myself doing this years ago, man," Vick says, cameras rolling.

His visit to the property he once owned in Surry County, Va., where he trained pit bulls for vicious fights and helped drown or hang dogs that didn't do well, is a teaser of what's ahead in his docu-series "The Michael Vick Project."

Vick candidly tells how he became entangled in a dogfighting ring that sent him to prison and temporarily halted his NFL career as part of a series that debuts next month on BET. Vick says the 10-part series that premieres Feb. 2 will show he's a changed man after a tragic fall from stardom he says "was all my fault."

"At times, it's hard to talk about it, but for the most part, if you talk about it and let it all out, it kind of helps put the demons to rest," Vick told the Associated Press on Thursday.

Vick served an 18-month prison sentence for operating a dogfighting ring. He returned to the NFL this season as a backup QB with the Philadelphia Eagles.

In the first episode, Vick openly discusses living a "double life" of running the operation at the same time he was making Pro Bowls and signing a 10-year, $130-million contract with the Atlanta Falcons. Vick explains in detail the childhood experiences he had with dogfighting and how the activity morphed from his NFL sideshow job to a bustling second career that spanned state lines.

"I really took to it," Vick said on the show. "I was intrigued by what was going on. It kind of excited me and I gravitated to it."

Vick told the AP that walking over the burial spots of some of the dogs killed as part of his dogfighting operation "cut me deeply" and was the moment when he "really realized all the wrong that I did."

"I wanted to go out there and just totally put it all away and forget about it," Vick said by phone. "I felt like once I did that, I'd be able to do that. For the most part, I did. Since I've been out there, it's eased a lot off my brain as far as thinking about it."

Vick said he'd never be able to completely forget the horrific acts he witnessed and committed. Returning to Virginia made Vick deeply consider a question that still nags at his conscience: Why?

"Why sacrifice so many animals and put them in vulnerable positions to be harmed and injured?" he told the AP. "It was pointless."

The first episode does offer a glimpse, however, at answering that question. Vick said he saw his first dogfight as a 7-year-old. Vick's brother, Marcus, tells the cameras that growing up "we never knew there was nothing wrong with it."

Michael Vick said on Thursday that dogfighting was a part of black culture.

"When you grow up in the inner cities, when you grow up in the urban neighborhoods, that's pretty much what you get," Vick said. "You don't have opportunities to do certain things at your own leisure. When you have down time, if you're not playing football, basketball or baseball, then you're looking for some activity to get into."

Vick said he's learned the last few years to deal with his heinous crimes and their repercussions.

"I had counseling sessions when I was about to be incarcerated," he said Thursday. "It was therapeutic for me."

Vick's mother, sister, and Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer were among the people interviewed on the first episode. His fiancee, Kijafa Frank, says she pleaded with Vick to quit. Vick said when he was charged in 2007, he believed "money will get me out of this situation" and lawyers could make all the legal issues vanish.

Only months later, Vick surrendered to U.S. marshals.

"I cried all the way to the jail," he said on BET.

Wearing a white button-down shirt and jeans, Vick appears at ease as he discusses how his dogfighting stable rapidly expanded and spiraled out of control. He wanted to end it, but never found the courage to say stop.

Vick now says he's a new man. Vick, the former No. 1 overall pick, said the show chronicles the real story of his rise to the top, his precipitous fall, and path toward redemption. Vick is shown playing catch with his son, and laughing with his two daughters in a scene that softens the image of him as a dog-killing monster.

"I think people will see him in a different light, respect him in a different way," producer James DuBose said. "I don't say people are ever going to forget what he did or the mistake that he made. But we all, in my mind, deserve second chances if you own up to your mistake and help others not make that same mistake."

Vick worked with the Humane Society of the United States this season and gave speeches at schools and churches about how wrong he was to ever get involved with dogfighting -- especially with so much to lose.

Vick said he's turned his life around and wants to show people that he can change. He knows he'll always have his detractors -- protests are included in the first episode and later ones -- but he's trying to make amends.

"It's still a work in progress each and every day and it's going to be that way the rest of my life," he told The AP.

His football future is in limbo. He attempted only 13 passes and rushed 24 times in limited action with the Eagles season. The Eagles hold a $5.2-million option for next season and might not pick it up if Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb return. Vick, who said he started working out Wednesday, hasn't thought much about next season.

"I'm excited about everything," Vick said. "Whether I'm in Philly or Tampa Bay, it wouldn't even matter."

-- Associated Press

Photo: Vick looks on from the sidelines in a Jan. 9 game between the Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys.  Credit: Jamie Squire / Getty Images

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I do NOT buy the rather late-arriving remorse of this misbegotten criminal. I grew up poor in a blue collar very rough rural neighborhood - and I did not fight dogs. Many of my high school classmates drank, drank and drove, fought viciously among each other, and did drugs. I didn't do it. In fact, the majority didn't do anything but live average 1960's teenager lives focused on school studies, family and sports. I am SICK of hearing this man whine about how his excuse is that he was a part of his culture. I am not black but am married to a black man and he tells me most of the black community disrespects Vick. The only ones who seem to support Vick are the NFL fans and specifically Philadelphia area football fans. And if you look at the hundreds of dogfighting arrests since Vick's conviction and subsequent HSUS-sponsored pseudo-outreach many of the younger dogfighters are indicating that Vick didn't get punished very much and went on to resume a high dollar career so they figured why not do the same.

Michael Vick did NOT "become entangled" in a dogfighting ring. HE ran it, HE bought the property on Moonlight Road expressly for the purposes of dogfighting, HE bankrolled the operation, named "Bad Newz" kennels after HIS hometown of Newport News, and HE paid his friends to run it. HE not only ordered the killings of dogs, HE PERSONALLY KILLED DOGS.

Michael Vick, with his own hands, drowned dogs in a five-gallon bucket of water. With his own hands he strung up other dogs on a nylon cord attached to a two by four nailed between two trees on HIS property, and watched those dogs strangle to death. When one dog didn't die quickly enough, he cut her down and drowned her in the bucket.

This is not infomation that's hard to come by. The prosecutor's statement of facts in the case is available online, as is the USDA report on the case, which also reveals that Vick and his friends put small family pet dogs in the ring with trained fighting dogs because, in the words of the USDA report, "they thought it was funny" to watch the fighting dogs kill and injure the smaller dogs.

How can you, as a reporter, include such exculpatory terms as "entangled?"

And this passage? "Vick said he'd never be able to completely forget the horrific acts he witnessed and committed. Returning to Virginia made Vick deeply consider a question that still nags at his conscience: Why?

'Why sacrifice so many animals and put them in vulnerable positions to be harmed and injured?'"

He didn't put them in a position to be harmed by others, HE harmed them. He didn't "sacrifice" animals, he tortured and killed them. He didn't "witness," he killed and conspired to kill. He paid his friends to kill dogs when he was too busy to kill them himself.

He wasn't a misguided kid; he was twenty-nine years old and he took pains to conceal his involvement in the fighting operation he masterminded and funded, as well as, once he was caught, lying to investigators and attempting to blame everything on his relatives and employees until it was no longer possible for him to do so.

You are reporters. Is what Vick is saying in any way credible? Is it supported by the facts, and the charges he pled guilty to? No, it is not. By simply taking his dictation, reporting the story as he self-servingly tells it, you are turning yourselves from reporters into PR flaks. Why? Look at his "60 Minutes" interview. Do you see true remorse for the pain, terror and death he personally put dogs through? Or just self-pity?

Why will nobody tell the truth about who Michael Vick is and what he really did? Why is nobody asking how someone who got off on torturing animals could have such a "miraculous" turnaround without long-term counseling? Intuitively, does it make sense that someone who enjoys watching living beings suffer, who "thought it was funny" to watch smaller, defenseless dogs be killed in the ring could all of a sudden change into someone who feels compassion for animals?

Could you change that fast? Could you change from someone who cares and writes about animals into someone who would have fun watching them die, and killing them yourself? Now imagine how fast you could change, if not your heart, then your tune, if what you really wanted was a multi-million dollar football contract.

Why is no one looking at this massive con job Vick is pulling and telling the truth about what he's trying so hard to conceal?


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