The issue with Michael Vick is when, not if.
As in when he will play in the NFL again. There is little doubt in my mind we have not seen the last of Vick on an NFL field. Vick has too much talent not to resurface, and the position he plays is a black hole.
Consider some of the quarterbacks on NFL rosters today - Gibran Hamdan, Jeff Rowe, Shaun Hill.
Consider, too, that these players started games on Sunday: Brock Berlin, Vinny Testaverde, Luke McCown, Sage Rosenfels. They are among the 56 quarterbacks who have started games in the league this year.
Now you are going to tell me 32 teams are going to turn their back on a player who was so talented he was chosen with the first pick in the draft and went to three Pro Bowls? Think again.
"There will be a market for him," one NFC general manager said Monday. "It might be a small group of teams because community pressure might make it difficult for small-market teams to take him on. Because of his unusual skills, signing him also might force a team to build its offense around him - so that could be another issue. But I think we'll see him again."
When Vick will return is not as easy to predict.
Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison Monday by a federal judge for operating a dogfighting ring and then lying about it. He also was fined $5,000 and given three years of probation.
So the worst-case scenario would appear to be Vick missing three more seasons after this one - two when he would be in prison, and another while under suspension from the NFL. Even in that unlikely case, Vick still would be only 30 years old when he would be eligible to return to the NFL.
It is more possible Vick could be back in some team's training camp the season after next. With time off for good behavior, Vick could be released after serving 85 percent of his sentence. He already has served nearly one month after reporting early to jail on Nov. 19. That would make him a free man in May 2009 - at 29 years old.
Whether Vick will face an additional suspension from the NFL is unknown. It is possible commissioner Roger Goodell will decide Vick has been punished enough.
Because Vick was less than truthful with prosecutors, his sentence is harsher than the sentences of his co-defendants. Purnell Peace was sentenced to 18 months, and Dennis Phillips was sentenced to 21 months. A third defendant, Tony Taylor, is scheduled to be sentenced Friday. All four men also will face charges of animal cruelty from the state of Virginia in the spring. Whoever takes a gamble on Vick likely would sign him as a backup. So he might not have the opportunity to become a starter for a while. He'll continue to age during that time.
And there is nothing quite as difficult to watch as an aging quarterback who never learned how to pass.
For all of Vick's magic, he remained a runner first. When he gets back on the field, Vick might find his running skills aren't what they were.
"It's not like Joe Montana sitting out a few years," the general manager said.
If he can't make the late career transition to become more of a passer as other running quarterbacks like him have done, Vick might become nothing more than a novelty.
In that case, his return to the NFL could be a brief one. But he will return, nonetheless.