By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Michael Vick met this week with NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith, and sources said his representatives plan for him to meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell, perhaps in the next day or two, as the suspended quarterback prepares for a possible return to pro football after being released from federal custody Monday.
The planned meeting between Vick and Goodell could play a major role in Goodell's decision whether to reinstate Vick from his indefinite suspension from the NFL, sources familiar with the deliberations said Wednesday. Those sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the controversial nature of the topic.
People familiar with the case said they believe it is possible Goodell will opt to partially reinstate Vick, who missed the last two NFL seasons while serving a federal sentence for his role in a dogfighting operation in Virginia. That would allow Vick to sign with an NFL team and perhaps participate in training camp practices. But Goodell probably would postpone a decision about whether Vick would be eligible to participate in games during the regular season.
Vick is a free agent after being released by the Atlanta Falcons.
His meeting with Smith, the D.C. lawyer elected in March to succeed the late Gene Upshaw as executive director of the players' union, took place Tuesday.
George Atallah, the union's assistant executive director of external affairs, confirmed the meeting in a telephone interview Wednesday. Atallah said it was a one-on-one meeting between Smith and Vick but declined to say where the meeting took place or reveal any other details.
The union is not taking a formal position on Vick's potential reinstatement. However, the union has expressed support for Vick on a personal level, with Smith having said in a written statement that he is hopeful Vick will get his life in order.
Goodell suspended Vick before the 2007 season. The commissioner is given complete authority under the NFL's personal conduct policy to discipline players for legal troubles. Under the policy, any decision by the commissioner regarding discipline for off-field misconduct can be appealed only to the commissioner or a person designated by him.
Upshaw was supportive when the conduct policy was strengthened by Goodell a few years ago, with input from Upshaw and the players. Upshaw said at the time he didn't want the misconduct of a few players to tarnish all of the players in the league and hurt the NFL in dealings with sponsors and other business partners.
Several people familiar with the case stressed Wednesday that Goodell does not appear to have made a firm decision about what he'll do, and much could depend on what Vick tells him when they meet.
League officials declined to comment about the specifics of a meeting between Goodell and Vick, or regarding Goodell's pending decision about Vick's eligibility to play.
"The review process is ongoing," Greg Aiello, the NFL's senior vice president of public relations, said in a written statement, declining further comment.
Goodell told reporters Tuesday at an unrelated news conference in New York a decision about Vick's playing status was coming soon but declined to be more specific.
"The process is ongoing, and I hope to make a decision sometime in the near future," Goodell said then, according to the Associated Press.
Vick's agent, Joel Segal, was not available to comment Wednesday.
ESPN first reported Vick's meeting with Goodell could come Thursday or Friday and a conditional reinstatement could be announced next week.
It remains unclear if any teams are interested in signing Vick, 29, if he is reinstated by Goodell.
The upstart United Football League, scheduled to begin play in the fall, also has been mentioned as a possibility for Vick. But people close to Vick have said he is focused on a return to the NFL. His representatives have made a return to the NFL by Vick a key component in his plan to emerge from the bankruptcy proceedings in which he has been involved.