THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Plum job: Ex-con Vick will have his pick

Unlike this pit bull terrier, Vick appears destined for freedom and a lucrative career.

As Esther Greenwood in The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath laid bare a uniquely human dilemma. With life spread before her like an overloaded fig tree, each "fat purple fig" representing a wonderful future, Esther starves to death for fear of making a choice. For ordinary folk "choosing one mean[s] losing all the rest." Luckily for athletes, they are not ordinary folk. 

Michael Vick is scheduled to get out of prison on July 20. It seems just yesterday he was ascending the courthouse steps, doesn't it? Time really flies.

The former All-Pro quarterback has spent the last 18 months or so getting dishpan hands in Leavenworth, Kansas, supplementing his suspended NFL salary by scouring dishes for 12 cents an hour. One would think the stench of rotting figs would be overwhelming. 

One would be wrong.

Despite his bad choices, Michael Vick's fig tree is beginning to bear fruit once again. With five months left in his prison sentence and a possible suspension from pro football, the squeaky wheels of his career are starting to turn. This week, the Atlanta Falcons put Vick on the trading block, ensuring that his comeback is only a matter of time.

When Judge Henry Hudson sentenced Vick to 23 months in prison, he also saw fit to tack on three years of federal probation, which is pretty restrictive even without special provisions. When Michael Vick is released from prison, here's a little taste of what he can expect.

First, Vick will have to "avoid commission of any new offenses." I'm not sure there's much hope for Vick on this one. In September 2007, while awaiting sentencing on the dog-fighting charges, Vick violated the terms of his pretrial release by testing positive for marijuana. If the man can't put the pipe down when looking down the barrel of federal prison, he'd be hard pressed to desist after being released.

Another federal probation requirement is "maintaining stable employment." In August 2007, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Vick indefinitely without pay. While the NFL Network's Adam Schefter believes Vick won't face further suspension, Sports Illustrated's Peter King anticipates Vick won't be able to play until the 2010 season. Assuming the truth lies somewhere in the middle, Vick's going to have to find a job. With all his dishwashing experience, I'm sure he'll find something.

The NFL and football writers everywhere are confident in Michael Vick's ability to keep out of trouble, find a steady job, and notify his probation officer of any movements outside his supervised area– and why not? Even the Commonwealth of Virginia rolled over and accepted a plea deal from Vick's attorney. And if Vick doesn't hold up his end of the bargain, so what? Can you name one NFL player who returned to jail after violating probation?

Okay, okay, so back in 2007 Tank Johnson served half of a four-month sentence for violating his probation after police found six unregistered firearms in his house. It took habitual offender Johnson less than a month to rack up his next violation– but was he booked or charged after being arrested for a DUI? 

What do you think?

According to ESPN, Vick has kept in contact with Commissioner Goodell throughout his prison stay, and if Goodell remains true to form, a formal welcome to football won't be long in coming. What does Vick have to fear from the Commissioner who reinstated Pacman Jones multiple times, despite his being involved in numerous shootings, assaults, drug-related incidents, and obstruction of justice?

Back in November, the Associated Press reported that of the NFL teams they polled, six would be willing to put Vick on their roster. Vick's tree is literally sagging under the weight of its ripening fruit, and it seems no matter which one he chooses, the rest will always be there waiting for him.

Come July, Vick will have his pick of fat purple figs, each representing a wonderful future. No matter what.