NEW YORK - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has weighed in on Michael Vick’s indictment on dogfighting charges, and as a result the Falcons star was ordered to stay away from training camp until the league reviews the case.
The other men who could determine the future of Vick’s football career — including Falcons owner Arthur Blank — were expected to be speak publicly Tuesday for the first time since the troubled quarterback was indicted.
It could be another pivotal day for Vick, though Goodell has asked Blank to wait for the NFL to finish its investigation before announcing the team’s plans for Vick.
In a letter to Vick on Monday, Goodell instructed the Newport News, Va., native to stay away from training camp, at least for now.
“While it is for the criminal justice system to determine your guilt or innocence, it is my responsibility as commissioner of the National Football League to determine whether your conduct, even if not criminal, nonetheless violated league policies, including the personal conduct policy,” Goodell said.
Goodell also promised that the league would complete its review quickly, adding that he expected Vick’s full cooperation. The NFL wants to speak with federal investigators and prosecutors to learn how strong of a case they have against the 27-year-old.
The Falcons open camp on Thursday, the same day Vick will be arraigned in Richmond, Va. He and three other men face charges of allegedly sponsoring a dogfighting operation and brutal treatment of pit bulls.
Along with Blank, Atlanta’s general manager Rich McKay and new coach Bobby Petrino held a press conference Tuesday to address Vick.
“This sort of behavior is really horrific,” Blank said. “But these are charges. We have to let the legal process play out.”
Blank said he would encourage Vick, indicted on federal charges of sponsoring a dogfighting operation, not to worry about playing football at all in 2007 while the case is pending.
Vick did not attend the news conference.
Vick hasn’t commented publicly since the team held a mini-camp in May. None of the phone messages left on his cell phone have been returned. His lawyer, Lawrence Woodward of Newport News, Va., also did not respond to interview requests Monday.
Vick, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft, last season became the first quarterback to rush for more than 1,000 yards last season. He led the Falcons to an NFC wild-card win 2002, his first season as a starter, and in 2004, Vick’s play helped Atlanta reach the conference title game.
The Falcons will pay Vick during his hiatus. NFL veteran players earn $1,100 per week from the beginning of camp until the first week of the regular season.
Vick signed a 10-year contract extension in 2004 worth approximately $130 million. His salary this season is $6 million.
Before Monday, the league, the NFL players’ union and the Falcons had yet to make a definitive statement on Vick, each saying they would monitor developments and allow the legal process to “determine the facts.”
Since then, pressure has mounted publicly and particularly from animal-rights activists.
PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — demonstrated at Falcons’ headquarters in Flowery Branch, Ga., on Monday.
Activists also pressured companies that have endorsements deals with Vick to sever their ties, and Nike said it would withhold release of a fifth signature shoe, the Air Zoom Vick V, this summer.
Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer said the four shoe products and three shirts that currently bear Vick’s name will remain in stores.
The Humane Society of the United States has asked the apparel company to sever its relationship with Vick immediately.
Goodell’s order came down after several talks with the Falcons and Gene Upshaw, the union’s executive director.
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.
In his first year as commissioner, Goodell has acted decisively in using the NFL’s new conduct policy, suspended Adam “Pacman” Jones of the Tennessee Titans for the upcoming year and telling Cincinnati’s Chris Henry and former Chicago Bears lineman Tank Johnson that they will miss the first eight games in 2007.
Vick’s indictment states that several pit bulls at his Surry County home were killed if they weren’t strong enough to fight. The federal government says Vick and his associates executed the dogs “by hanging, drowning and/or slamming at least one dog’s body to the ground.”
Purses for the fights ranged from hundreds of dollars to the thousands, and participants and spectators often placed side bets on the outcome, according to the indictment
If convicted, Vick and three others charged with him could face up to six years in prison, and $350,000 in fines.
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