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Stuck in Vick's mess

The pronunciation of Louisville is always an interesting topic among those who live in and visit the Kentucky city.

Some say Louie-ville. Some say Lou-uh-vull.

No matter how you say it, it's got to sound pretty good to Bobby Petrino right now.

He left a pretty good situation at the University of Louisville, a school whose football program he had built into a national contender, to become the new Atlanta Falcons head coach in the offseason. It's tough to blame him for making that move.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank gave him a nice paycheck and it's hard for any coach to turn down a head job in the NFL. Also Petrino, a well-renowned offensive mind, would have to work with the league's most exciting player, Michael Vick, a quarterback with running back's skills. Sure nobody confuses the left-hander with Joe Montana, but it had to excite Petrino to work with such a talented player, even if his passing game needed some work.

That excitement didn't last long. Instead Vick's off-the-field troubles took over. Weeks after Petrino was hired in January, his starting quarterback's "water bottle" incident in the Miami airport stirred up trouble. Now it's even worse with his dogfighting indictment and one of the biggest PR disasters in NFL history.

Is this what Petrino signed up for? Now he's going to be deluged with questions about his troubled quarterback constantly. Poor guy. Before he's coached a game in the NFL, he's got huge turmoil and a practice field surrounded by media and animal-loving picketers.

But he isn't the only one affected by Vick's mess. Not by a long stretch.

The team itself is hurt. Not just because the starting quarterback may be Joey Harrington, but also because no team needs to have this situation hanging over them going into a season. That can do nothing but cause distractions, cause problems. Not the situation a first-year NFL head coach needs.

The coach won't be fielding questions alone though. At training camp and beyond, reporters are going to grill the Falcons players with questions about Vick. At every road game, out-of-town media will rehash the dogfighting situation over and over.

That's a little unfair to them, too. They're trying to make it as pro athletes, not worry about what their former "leader" (I use that term loosely) did with his pit bulls.

Unfortunately, the situation won't end soon. The legal process will take time and will wear on the Falcons' players and coaches.

It's enough to make a coach long for a return to the Bluegrass State.

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.