Federal grand jury indicts Vick
July 18: Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was indicted by a Virginia federal grand jury on dogfighting charges. MSNBC's Peter Alexander talks to Associated Press sports editor Hank Kurz.
RICHMOND, Va. - Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick called team owner Arthur Blank on Wednesday to apologize for the distractions caused by his indictment on felony dogfighting charges the day before, ESPN reported.
Vick is "devastated" by the indictment, according to a source cited by ESPN. He called Blank to talk about the situation and thanked him for his support, ESPN added.
The Falcons’ first training camp under their new coach will begin without Vick. He will be in a federal courtroom July 26 in Virginia being arraigned on charges he sponsored a gruesome dogfighting operation as first-year coach Bobby Petrino and the Falcons begin preparing for the season.
Vick and three co-defendants will be asked to enter pleas to the felony charges, and a date for the federal trial likely will be set during the arraignment. After that, Vick will probably be free to rejoin the Falcons as he awaits his day in court.
And the league, it seems, is inclined to let him play.
After consulting with the Falcons, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and top league officials agreed Wednesday to let Vick play as the legal process determines the facts.
A person with knowledge of the meeting, who requested anonymity so the case would not be influenced, said the NFL would stick to that position for the foreseeable future, despite its new personal conduct policy.
In April, Goodell suspended Tennessee’s Adam “Pacman” Jones for the 2007 season even though Jones had not been convicted of a crime. He did, however, have 10 encounters with police and five arrests since he was drafted in 2005.
“It’s unfortunate that Michael Vick is in this position, as these allegations are extremely disturbing and offensive,” the union said in a statement. “This case is now in the hands of the judicial system, and we have to allow the legal process to run its course. However, we recognize Michael still has the right to prove his innocence. Hopefully, these allegations are untrue and Michael will be able to continue his NFL career.”
Vick and three associates must appear in Richmond July 26 for bond hearings and arraignments on charges contained in a detailed, 18-page indictment handed up Tuesday.
The four are accused of competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting, and conducting the enterprise across state lines.
The operation was named “Bad Newz Kennels,” according to the indictment, and the dogs were housed, trained and fought at a property owned by Vick in Surry County, Va.
Conviction carries up to six years in prison, fines of $350,000 and restitution.
Steve Helber / AP
Dog pens and houses are empty in a fenced area behind a home owned by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in Surry, Va., in this May 31, 2007 file photo.
Those and other allegations of animal abuse have already put Vick squarely in the center of strong and divided reaction.
In Atlanta, where Vick’s name dwarfs all others in pro sports, about 46 percent of respondents in an overnight telephone poll conducted by Atlanta-based InsiderAdvantage think the Falcons should release Vick. About the same percentage said the team should keep him until a verdict is returned. About 8 percent of the 859 people polled had no opinion. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Nike, one of Vick’s sponsors, said it was reviewing the indictment and would have no other comment.
In a letter to Goodell, Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Vick’s corporate sponsors, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and the Rev. Al Sharpton joined with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States in calling for strong stands against animal cruelty.
Goodell and Blank met individually with Vick in May after the investigation started, telling him to straighten up or risk discipline.
Blank said he “could not have been more stern” in telling Vick that he represents himself, the franchise and the league and needs to do it right.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
The Falcons signed Vick to a 10-year, $130 million contract in December 2004. He has been paid about $44 million, including $37 million in guaranteed bonuses, and is due to earn a base salary of $6 million this season.
Teams can amortize the salary cap implications of signing bonuses, but if a player is cut, all bonuses paid but not yet factored into the salary cap must be accounted for within two years.
The Falcons face an estimated salary cap hit of about $6 million this year and $15 million in 2008 if they release Vick — devastating hits to any team’s budget.
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