The path to rehabilitation has many twists and turns. Michael Vick would like to take a detour, and he’d like to unwrap a smiling, happy little puppy on Christmas morning.

Vick’s crimes against dogs are well known, but they’re especially infamous in the animal kingdom, a venomous group of dog lovers who will never forgive and forget after Vick spent time in prison for dog fighting. They don’t care about his chemistry with DeSean Jackson, and probably think Jackson is a country singer. They don’t care about how many interceptions Vick has thrown, and they scoff at any notion of a redemption story. They don’t care about football, they care about dogs.

Vick’s arms and legs can do some amazing things on the football field, but his mind can’t seem to comprehend the concept of optics. In the past his words and actions may be well-intentioned, but they’re shown severely poor timing. The latest shining example of this came today, when Vick told NBC’s TheGrio.com that he wouldn’t mind owning a dog again.

Take it away, Mike…

“I would love to get another dog in the future. I think it would be a big step for me in the rehabilitation process. I think just to have a pet in my household and to show people that I genuinely care, and my love and my passion for animals; I think it would be outstanding. If I ever have the opportunity again I will never take it for granted. I miss having a dog right now. I wish I could. My daughters miss having one, and that’s the hardest thing: telling them that we can’t have one because of my actions.”

Vick’s sentence following his conviction on charges of conspiracy and running a dogfighting ring in 2007 was 18 months in prison, two months of home confinement, and a lifetime ban on owning a dog.

His words here are sincere, but recovering alcoholics sound sincere too when they say they’re just having one drink. Vick may be well on his way to a full recovery; Heck, he might be fully recovered now, and be just fine with a furry poodle tracking mud through his living room. But he was beginning to escape the public’s doghouse, and now he has one foot back in.

We’ve been enjoying Michael Vick the football player, and slowly Michael Vick the political figure and criminal was fading into the shadows. That faction of dog lovers will always throw their venom because animals hold a unique place in society, and Vick’s actions touched a deep nerve.

But the average, level-headed person recognized Vick’s time in jail as punishment for a heinous crime. One of the primary purposes of the criminal justice system is to give criminals the tools to become working, contributing members of society, and Vick has accomplished that goal on the football field, and with his work throughout the community.

This wasn’t the time to open an old wound. Also interesting was Vick’s response to a question where he was asked what he would tell the 2006 Michael Vick. The response reflected Vick’s self awareness.

“That Mike probably wouldn’t listen to nothing that I had to say.”

Honest, candid responses gain respect. But a sense of optics mixed in with his honesty would go a long way for Vick.