Team issues only brief written statement at NFL's request
By STEVE WYCHE
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/20/07
Flowery Branch â€” By the time news broke Monday that Falcons quarterback Michael Vick would enter a guilty plea on federal dogfighting charges, his teammates were gone from the practice facility and coaches and front office personnel were in meetings.
There was a sanitary chill in a building where, for months, employees have wanted to cleanse themselves of the negativity brought upon them by Vick's alleged, and soon-to-be-confessed, involvement in a dogfighting ring.
The only reaction from the team came in a 66-word statement from the team.
"We are certainly troubled with the news today concerning Michael Vick's guilty plea to federal charges," the statement read. "It is our understanding that the terms of Michael's plea will not be available until Monday, August 27. Additionally, commissioner [Roger] Goodell has asked us not to take any action until he has completed his own review of Michael's situation. Accordingly, we will have no further comment until that time."
The NFL admitted in its short statement that it asked the Falcons to be quiet for now and show restraint. Goodell barred Vick from being with the team last month while his case was being reviewed.
Action from the NFL and the Falcons could come next week after Vick formally enters his plea in a Richmond courtroom next Monday.
Goodell said he would not rule on Vick's future until an independent investigation was completed â€” the Falcons' action would follow the NFL's â€” but Vick's guilty plea and the league's condemnation of Vick for lying could result in a lengthy, possibly indefinite suspension. Whether it coincides with any prison time or comes afterward remains to be seen.
Vick's tenure with the Falcons also appears tenuous.
Team owner Arthur Blank said before the Falcons' preseason game Friday, "As facts come out, we will absorb the facts, study the facts, research them and then we'll move very decisively. You think you know somebody for six years and you find out another side of their personality that you didn't know. It's always disappointing. If it's a positive thing you welcome that, but something like this. ... I don't know if any of his teammates anticipated anything like this. I certainly know this owner didn't anticipate anything like this. It's very sad."
Blank was at team headquarters Monday for practice but he left as the news of Vick's plea broke. As he departed, the driver of his van told two reporters that Blank couldn't speak because he was late for an appointment.
Vick's college coach, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, did address the developments.
"I, like all people who know and care about Michael Vick, was very disappointed and saddened by the news," Beamer said in a statement. "Although all the details are not known at this time, I am greatly concerned that Michael has put himself in this position."
The Falcons could try to recover some of the signing bonus money already paid to Vick should he get suspended by the NFL. The actual amount they could pursue is still being determined, but team officials do plan on speaking with the NFL's management counsel to figure their rights.
Should they collect any money, it could be credited toward Atlanta's salary cap in future years.
Vick will count $8.5 million against the Falcons' salary cap this year even if he is suspended, though the team wouldn't have to pay his $6 million salary.
Vick's former teammate, free agent running back Fred McCrary, called the Journal-Constitution Monday evening because he said Vick is being unfairly portrayed.
"My heart is in my stomach," said McCrary, who said he last spoke to Vick two weeks ago. "Somebody needs to stand up for him. I ain't condoning what Mike did. He might have had something to do with it â€” he's admitting to that. Everybody is throwing Mike under the bus and it hurts. They're making Mike seem like the worst person in America.
"I'm going to support this man. That is my boy. I was his host when I was in San Diego and he was about to get drafted and the Chargers were considering taking him No. 1. So we go way back. He's like my brother. I know DeAngelo Hall, Warrick Dunn and a lot of other dudes feel the same way. We grinded with this guy. Just because the man made a mistake, we won't turn our back on him."
Offensive tackle Wayne Gandy spoke to Vick's situation roughly two hours before news of his plea deal was announced.
"My heart goes out to Michael, just as a man, because sometimes you get involved in things that you don't know the magnitude of them," Gandy said. "This team has done a great job of understanding. ... Nobody really knows what's going on, whether that's because he's been removed from the organization for a moment or what.
"We don't know the true ins and outs. The attitude from most people on this team is how can you judge this man when you don't know what's going on anyway?"
Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser.
"None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm".
Henry David Thoreau
Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail.
"Luck is the residue of design." - Branch Rickey