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Could Michael Vick have worn purple?

In some alternate reality, Brian Billick is still the Ravens head coach and the team went through three quarterbacks last year without finding a long-term solution. (Oddly, also in this bizarro reality: Steelers fans eat salads, Americans drive on the left-hand side of the road and Chinese food is best served smothered in melted cheese.)

So if Joe Flacco never set foot in Owings Mills, if John Harbaugh, Cam Cameron and Hue Jackson never took up office space in The Castle, the big question Ravens fans would be debating these next several months would be: What about Michael Vick?

According to today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Vick is planning on returning to the NFL as soon as possible. He has no choice: Vick needs to make mad cash to pay his debts. I don't think those Payday Loans shops will front you money unless you have a job. (According to the AJC story, Vick's planning on earning $10 million a year when he returns to the league. And in unrelated news, I'm planning on taking Scarlett Johansson out for caramels this weekend.)

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So let's dip a pretend foot into this pretend reality: Would Vick be worth the risk?

It's a tough question to answer. As the Ravens proved in the real universe last year, the real solution lies with drafting a young quarterback that can stabilize the franchise for years to come. But if that wasn't a draft-day option, I'd have no problem with a team like the Ravens taking a run on a guy like Vick down the road (again, in our alternate reality).

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Vick will likely be a free man this summer and he'll likely apply for reinstatement to the NFL before 2010. By then, he'll still be an exciting player. Vick was only 26 when he played his last game; he'd be 30 years old at the start of the 2010 season. Plenty of quarterbacks have posted some of their most successful seasons at age 30 and beyond.

Though the Falcons steadily declined Vick's last couple of seasons, you don't want to attribute that entirely to Vick. His passing yards, in fact, slightly rose over his final three seasons, as did his number of touchdown passes. And don't forget that in 2006 -- the last season before Bad Newz Kennel was boarded up -- Vick rushed for more than 1,000 yards.

He'll make some team better. It's just a matter of a general manager taking a chance and a fan base offering forgiveness.

I'm in the camp that believes sitting in a prison cell is paying one's debt to society. It doesn't mean you have to like him -- you don't have to hire him to babysit your children or walk your miniature schnauzer around the block -- but the NFL need not punish him harsher than the court.

So the question to you: Would you have been willing to cheer Vick in a Ravens jersey?

Photo: Associated Press

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