Vick Ordered by Goodell To Stay Away From Camp

Michael Vick
Michael Vick's playing status is to be determined by Commissioner Roger Goodell, and the NFL gave no timetable for the decision. (Tami Chappell - Reuters)
By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday ordered quarterback Michael Vick not to report to training camp with the Atlanta Falcons until the league has reviewed his legal troubles stemming from federal dogfighting charges.

Vick's playing status is to be determined by Goodell, and the NFL gave no timetable for the decision other than to announce that the review would be completed "as soon as possible."

"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 wrote Vick in a letter yesterday, according to an NFL statement.

A federal grand jury indicted Vick and three other men last week on conspiracy charges related to their alleged operation of a dogfighting ring based at a property owned by Vick in southeastern Virginia. Vick is scheduled to make his initial court appearance Thursday afternoon in Richmond while his teammates participate in their opening practice of training camp in Flowery Branch, Ga. Falcons players are scheduled to report to training camp tomorrow.

According to a source close to the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive and controversial state of the deliberations, Goodell plans to meet with Vick as part of the league's review.

"It would be a short-term solution," the source said, speaking shortly before the league announced its decision. "He wouldn't be going to camp, and then what would happen after that would be determined by the commissioner. The commissioner would never impose discipline on a player without meeting with the player first."

Others in the league have said that Vick, 27, could face a lengthy suspension under the NFL's toughened conduct policy imposed by Goodell in April. The policy empowers Goodell to suspend a player even if he has not been convicted of a crime. After enacting the policy, Goodell suspended Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones for a full season and imposed half-season suspensions on Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry and former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson.

Goodell informed Vick yesterday that the league expects his "full cooperation" in its review, the NFL announced. Goodell met with Vick in New York in late April at the NFL draft, just after authorities in Surry County, Va., reportedly discovered dogfighting equipment during a drug raid on Vick's property focused on Vick's cousin, Davon Boddie. Sources have said that Vick told Goodell then that he had no knowledge of what was alleged to have occurred on the property. Goodell could increase the length of Vick's suspension if he determines that Vick lied to him in April, those sources have said.

The league announced last night that Vick will not forfeit any preseason pay during what it termed an "excused absence from training camp." Players' annual salaries, however, are paid only during the regular season, not during training camp and preseason. If Vick is suspended by the league during the regular season, he would not be paid for the games he misses.

The NFL's announcement also indicated that Goodell had instructed the Falcons to withhold any "contemplated team discipline" against Vick until after the league review. One source said the league acted in part because the Falcons seemed uncertain about whether to discipline Vick or allow him to begin practicing Friday, and Goodell was concerned that the team would permit Vick to play until the legal process was completed.

Under league rules, the Falcons could suspend Vick for up to four regular season games for conduct detrimental to the team, but the NFL Players Association likely would contest such a move because the allegations against Vick have not been proved in court. Falcons and league officials discussed their options in recent days and, according to sources, also mentioned the possibility of Vick taking a leave of absence.

The league and the Falcons have been under intense pressure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and some Capitol Hill lawmakers to act immediately. Activists protested outside the Falcons' practice facility yesterday. A similar demonstration took place outside the league's New York offices last week.

Goodell is scheduled to be in Washington today and is expected to make his first public comments about the case since Vick's indictment. He is to participate in a meeting with retired players at the offices of the players' union.

Vick reportedly hired D.C. lawyer William R. (Billy) Martin yesterday to represent him. Martin did not respond to messages seeking comment.

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