Column: Is Vick worth the trouble?

One buys homes for needy single mothers. One buys houses for relatives to host dogfights.

One is the face of the franchise. One should be.

Michael Vick and Warrick Dunn share the same backfield for the Atlanta Falcons, but they couldn't be more different in how they're viewed by the public eye.

Dunn is one of the NFL's top humanitarians, a guy who nobody ever seems to say a bad word about. He does good deeds and does his job on the field without a ton of fanfare. He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards each of the past three seasons, but you won't see his image on video game covers or his jersey in stores all over the country.

That role goes to Vick, who based on popularity alone is the face of the franchise, even if it should be Dunn. But the reality is Vick is going to be the Falcons' figurehead as long as he's here.

The question is how long will he be here? How many more PR nightmares will owner Arthur Blank and his advisers put up with?

Falcon fans want to be Vick fans. They really do. But with every incident or stupid situation he gets into, it gets harder and harder.

When the star quarterback made an obscene gesture to the crowd, it was easy to shrug off. Maybe he lost his cool in the heat of the moment.

It's not as simple to explain away his other recent incidents.

The well-publicized story of his water bottle with a supposed drug smell was ridiculous. If you're carrying the bottle, which he later said was a jewelry case, just take out the jewelry and throw it away. Don't "reluctantly give it away," just take the jewels out and toss the container. Do that and maybe months of negative stories could be avoided.

Vick's latest troubles - his alleged ties to dogfighting - are the most disturbing. He has denied links to the activity, although ESPN reports over the weekend that call him a major player in dogfighting haven't helped.

The man has a 10-year, $130-million contract. He got a $37 million signing bonus. Can't he find something more respectable to do with his free time? Golf perhaps? Dominoes? Maybe he can help with Dunn's charity.

Whether Vick can escape these allegations remains to be seen. Either way, he needs to clean up his act and be more mindful of his off-the-field activities. Sure he puts fans in the seats, but his image is a mess and he isn't evolving as a passer (see the 53.8 completion percentage and the 75.7 passer rating).

It's quite a predicament for Blank, who may be forced to decide this - is Vick worth the trouble?

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