After Plea Bargain, NFL Sacks Vick

By Lloyd Vance
Updated: August 26, 2007

P HILADELPHIA — As expected, hours after learning that Michael Vick plead guilty in court papers that he bankrolled gambling on dogfighting and helped kill some dogs, the NFL indefinitely suspended Michael Vick without pay Friday.

In handing down his decision NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Vick’s admitted conduct was “not only illegal but also cruel and reprehensible” and regardless whether he personally placed bets, “your actions in funding the betting and your association with illegal gambling both violate the terms of your NFL player contract and expose you to corrupting influences in derogation of one of the most fundamental responsibilities of an NFL player.” Goodell also said the Falcons could “assert any claims or remedies” to recover $22 million of Vick’s signing bonus from the 10-year, $130 million contract he signed in 2004.

Vick can try and paint a prettier picture all he wants in his “summary of facts”, which he submitted on Friday. The summary included written statements “While Mr. Vick is not personally charged with or responsible for committing all of the acts alleged in the indictment, as with any conspiracy charge, he is taking full responsibility for his actions and the actions of the others involved.”

“Mr. Vick apologizes for his poor judgment in associating himself with those involved in dog fighting and realizes he should never have been involved in this conduct,” the statement said.

The NFL did the right thing by not buying the baloney that Vick only watched and bankrolled the operation while not participating. The NFL was well within their private association’s rights under the collective bargaining agreement to suspend him indefinitely.

We all know that Vick will one day return looking for reinstatement, but I believe that Goodell will cross that bridge when he comes to it. The “Commish” will probably want to wait and see what public sentiment is toward the fallen star and how Vick’s rehabilitation progresses. My guess is Vick will be away from football for three years and he will have to find work as a 30-year old outcast.

Vick will first have to navigate the on friendly waters of hoping his plea is accepted, sentencing, and then the hard cold reality that he will be in a cell for 12 to 18 months most likely.

To Vick’s supporters, he had to take the deal because the evidence was piling up quicker than ants to a picnic and it would have been too damaging to Vick to go to trial and he knew he had to save his “ass.”

Vick remains on the Falcons’ roster so they can follow NFL guidelines around recovering the money under the league’s CBA. The team will not have to pay Vick’s $6 million base salary this season since he is on the suspended list. However, Vick still counts about $8.5 million against the team’s salary cap for this season.

We will have to see if the Falcons can recover from the loss of Vick, but I don’t believe Joey Harrington who flamed out in Detroit and Miami will be the answer. It will be interesting to see the turnout and performance of the Falcons on Monday Night football against Cincinnati at the Georgia Dome after all of Vick’s court proceedings that morning.

Again, I ask “where do we go from here?” The NFL will continue to move forward to their September 6th start date happily sans Vick, Vick will prepare himself to face U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson on Monday morning, and the Falcons will try to recoup their money from their fallen star.

Monday’s events should be interesting, because in the plea agreement, the government committed to recommending a sentence on the low end of the federal sentencing guideline range of a year to 18 months.

However, the conspiracy charge is punishable by up to five years in prison, and the judge is not bound by any recommendation or by the guidelines. And that may be possible give that Judge Hudson is known to be a tough sentencing judge and don’t forget he is a dog lover too.

I can’t wait to see what Monday will bring in this summer’s biggest melodrama. But remember the story won’t end with Vick’s plea or when the NFL season starts on September 6th.

There still will be the little matter of Vick being sentenced probably in October or November, which will take a “bite” out of the NFL’s schedule and one the league’s biggest former stars.