Petrino, players issue first comments following plea deal
By STEVE WYCHE
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/21/07
Flowery Branch â€” Tailback Warrick Dunn, one of four Falcons veterans who either volunteered or were asked to speak on the team's behalf Tuesday â€” a day after quarterback Michael Vick said he would plead guilty on dogfighting charges â€” referred to Vick as an "ex-teammate."
Though Dunn might have been stating the obvious about Vick, who is scheduled to enter his guilty plea in a federal courtroom in Richmond Monday, it was the first public remark showing that ties are being broken.
"To me ... he needs to worry about his life," said Dunn, who keeps in regular contact with Vick. "As an ex-teammate, right now he definitely wants the guys on this football team to move on and move forward. You can't stay in a certain place. He expects us to go out and play hard. Do we wish he was here? Of course but he circumstances say otherwise."
Dunn, tight end Alge Crumpler, tackle Wayne Gandy and linebacker Keith Brooking held a news conference to speak about Vick and his legal situation that has buckled the knees of a franchise that marked him as its cornerstone.
All except Gandy took the same action on the first day of training camp in August, hoping then to absorb the attention Vick put on the team, only to have to repeat the process just more than three weeks later because the attention has grown. Coach Bobby Petrino also spoke.
The players and Petrino tried to humanize Vick Tuesday, saying he made a mistake and he still had plenty of time to live a productive life. All said they were disturbed by the charges that he fought and killed dogs.
Crumpler was the most emotional.
"Mike and I came in at the same time so I think I'm a relevant source," said Crumpler, who was selected in the second round of the 2001 draft, a round later than Vick "Mike's very human. This whole ordeal has kind of dehumanized him the last couple months. He is hurting. I do know that. He'll have to get through this. Who knows that the future is going to hold but I myself am not going to judge the man."
He went on.
"Our team definitely has to deal with it and we're going to deal with it," Crumpler said. "I can't say what our future record's going to be. To me, that doesn't matter. What matters is we come in, do what we're suppose to do, play hard and we build on this process. It's not going to be an easy process. It's not been an easy process for myself. It's not been an easy process for my teammates.
"There is no blueprint for this. This is, by far, one of the toughest things I've ever had to witness and read about and have it affect my teammates on a daily basis."
Cornerback DeAngelo Hall was approached by reporters for his reaction when he was coming off the practice field. He said that the team was placed under a "gag order."
Petrino and team officials said no gag order was issued and that if players felt comfortable discussing the situation with Vick â€” quarterback Joey Harrington did â€” then they could speak.
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