RICHMOND, Va. -- Michael Vick wants to work with an unlikely ally -- the Humane Society of the United States -- on a program aimed at eradicating dogfighting among urban teens.
Society president Wayne Pacelle said Tuesday that he recently met with Vick at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., and that Vick said he wants to work with the group once he's out of federal custody.
Billy Martin, one of Vick's attorneys, said Vick requested the meeting.
"Michael is very interested in putting this together," Martin said.
Vick is serving a 23-month prison sentence after his 2007 dogfighting conviction. He is scheduled to return to Virginia this week to serve the final two months of his term under home confinement in Hampton. Vick is expected to be released to supervised probation July 20 after receiving two months off his term for good behavior.
"He indicated that he's tremendously remorseful about this, and now he wants to be an agent of change, to work to end dogfighting and to specifically get young kids to cease any involvement in these activities," Pacelle said.
Pacelle said he went into the meeting with much skepticism.
The vicious bloodsport, Pacelle contends is a "culturally complex problem" that is prevalent among black urban teens and Vick's voice could become a valuable asset.
"Sometimes folks who are reformed can be particularly strong advocates," Pacelle said, but not simply by recording anti-dogfighting public service announcements. "We agree that he's got to put boots on the ground and hit the issue hard and do it over a long time."
One of Vick's primary challenges over the coming months will be showing he is genuinely sorry for the actions that landed him in prison.
And one of the people he must convince is NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who suspended him indefinitely as the case against him mounted.
"I think that's going to be up to Michael," Goodell said Tuesday during a break at the NFL meetings in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "Michael's going to have to demonstrate to myself and the general public and to a lot of people, did he learn anything from this experience? Does he regret what happened? Does he feel that he can be a positive influence going forward? Those are questions that I would like to see when I sit with him."
Goodell said that won't happen until Vick's legal responsibilities have been satisfied in July, around the time NFL training camps open.
Pacelle, too, said actions, not words, will be critical as Vick returns to society and begins attempting to repair his tarnished image.
"He's got to help himself. We can give him an opportunity to do the right thing, but it's ultimately going to be his level of intensity and sincerity that is going to convince the American public," Pacelle said.
"He still has to prove himself over time."