Inside the NFL, it's the question people whisper this week, a soft murmur, like the sound of water moving through old pipes:
Who will sign Michael Vick?
Because some team will. That's a given, even if the question advances the current debate involving Vick, the loud one, over whether he even should be allowed to play football again.
Whenever a player goes through the legal system for something especially flagrant, his future in football is the demanded media topic, for some reason. So is his remorse on demand.
It happened after Adam "Pacman" Jones was involved in a shooting that left a man paralyzed. He's back. It happened after Tank Johnson came out of jail on weapons charges. He's back.
Players arrested for driving drunk -- even killing someone, in the case of Leonard Little -- come back. Players who beat wives and girlfriends come back. Vick is one of the dark chapters in sports, but should he be treated worse for being involved in beating and killing dogs?
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he wants to sit with Vick to ask, "Did he learn anything from his 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 sat and talked a year ago with the likes of Pacman Jones. He ran into trouble again last year. So how does a show of remorse prove anything?
This idea the NFL should have tougher laws than the legal system isn't how it works. Like it or not, Vick paid his legal debt. He's out of the clink, out of a job, and you can agree he deserves the right to make a living even if you don't agree to watch from your living room.
Goodell will probably suspend Vick in a way that effectively ends his 2009 season before it can start. That works best for everyone. The new team can weather the initial storm, allow Vick to disappear from the headlines and get ready for 2010.
Here's two words why Vick will be in demand: Vinny Testaverde. At 44, Testaverde started six games for Carolina in 2007, showing what everyone watching Cleo Lemon start for the Dolphins that year knew. The NFL is desperate for quarterbacks.
If Vick's worth can't be seen by Testaverde, his comeback was assured when the Dolphins unleashed the Wildcat formation last fall. It succeeded past the fad stage. Other teams adopted it. Vick's worth increased because of it.
"If he was coming back as just a conventional quarterback, I'm not sure you'd have too many teams wanting to sign him because of all the baggage that comes with him," one NFL scout said. "But he's made to run the Wildcat.
"It plays perfectly because here's a guy who hasn't played at all lately and you can tailor seven or 10 plays to him."
Who signs him? Ultimately, that is an owner's decision because of the public-relations threat to the franchise. So you look to owners with a streak for the unconventional.
Dallas owner Jerry Jones signed far lesser talents with heavy baggage in Jones and Johnson. Oakland's Al Davis has a history of embracing misguided souls who can help him win. Washington's Dan Snyder? New Orleans' Tom Benson?
Don't worry about the Miami Dolphins. They spent a second-round pick on Pat White of West Virginia to run the Wildcat. That shows the value they put on the offense. It also underscores the value Vick carries. So does the idea of playing 18 games.
What Vick did to dogs doesn't go away. Nor does it chase away the idea he should be allowed to return. The only question now is who signs him.