June 22, 2017

Life after football hits some NFL players harder than others.

Michael Vick, Steve Smith and Justin Forsett are adjusting to their post-NFL careers in different ways.

Vick, the dynamic four-time Pro Bowl quarterback who was honored with a retirement ceremony by the Atlanta Falcons last week, isn't hanging up the cleats just yet. He signed with the American Flag Football League as both a player and adviser for the 7-on-7 organization that debuts in 2018. He's planning to play in a demonstration game Tuesday at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California.

''I think it's great being a retired NFL player (and having) another outlet, to have a chance to go play football and be competitive,'' Vick told The Associated Press. ''It's flag. I don't have to worry about getting hit. I don't have to worry about serious injuries. I can just throw the football. I don't have to really run around. You can just sit back (in the pocket), make reads, and have fun throwing touchdowns. That's the way we played in the backyard, growing up.''

The AFFL's plan is to field eight league-owned teams in 2018.

''The league eliminates the traditional physical limitations of tackle football, creating a platform for players who have elite athletic ability and speed, regardless of their size,'' said AFFL founder Jeffrey Lewis.

Vick, who turns 37 next month, last played in the NFL with Pittsburgh in 2015. He led the Steelers to a 2-1 record in three starts filling in for Ben Roethlisberger.

''I'm satisfied with my career and what I've been able to do,'' Vick said. ''I was hurt the last couple years of my career, but I never told anybody. I just went about my business as a professional and took care of (ankle surgery) once my career ended. I can still play, no doubt about it. If I dedicated myself to four months of training with the health of my ankle now, then I would be able to play. Probably still at a high level.''

But if a team loses its starting quarterback in training camp, Vick probably wouldn't have his agent make a call.

''Given an opportunity to go through the proper regimen, that's OTAs and offseason strength and conditioning, that's when you get acclimated,'' he said. ''If that was to happen, or could happen, maybe I would consider, but without those circumstances and those caveats, I wouldn't do it.''

Forsett is three years removed from his best season. He ran for 1,266 yards with the Ravens in 2014 and went to the Pro Bowl, but he bounced around and finished up with Detroit and Denver last season.

The 31-year-old began preparing for retirement long ago.

Forsett and two of his college teammates, Wale Forrester and Wendell Hunter, developed a brand called ShowerPill. The company's main product is The Athletic Body Wipe, a disposable washcloth that can be used when taking a shower isn't possible.

''It's a hygiene product for athletes on the go,'' Forsett said. ''It's basically a shower inside a wipe.''

The product is backed by a group of investors that includes Smith, Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott, Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart, 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and former Saints and Bills defensive back Jabari Greer.

''It all started with relationships and friendships,'' Forsett said. ''You share what you're passionate about, they see results and get on board. They believed in me as a person and a businessman and they wanted to get behind.''

Smith and Forsett developed a friendship when they played together for the Ravens. That relationship led to a business partnership.

''I love to look people in the eye, learn about them, learn their mannerisms and see if we line up morally,'' Smith said. ''I've passed on investments that were home runs because I just didn't see something in the meeting that I felt good about. With Justin, he's a lifetime friend. He's a guy you meet playing football, but you maintain a friendship throughout your life.''

While Vick prepares for more (safer) football and Forsett pursues business opportunities, Smith is getting ready to spend his first season off the field talking about the game. A five-time Pro Bowl receiver with the Panthers and Ravens, Smith joined NFL Network as an analyst.

He's also planning to do a lot of traveling with his family because he prepared wisely for retirement.

''My financial philosophy: What you say `yes' to today makes you say `no' to many tomorrows,'' Smith said.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi

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