By John Clayton
Updated: August 24, 2007, 7:57 PM ET
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wasted no time Friday in taking action on Michael Vick once he learned the details of the Falcons quarterback's plea agreement. The outcome was predictable -- Vick was suspended without pay indefinitely.
Goodell didn't need a long, detailed report from an independent investigator. He didn't need a hearing in which Vick explained his actions. Goodell acted on Vick's admissions. That was enough. Vick admitted involvement in the deaths of dogs that didn't perform well in fights and he admitted to bankrolling a gambling enterprise. As far as the commissioner was concerned, Vick violated the league's conduct policy with those admissions.
"Your admitted conduct was not only illegal, but also cruel and reprehensible," Goodell informed Vick. "Your team, the NFL, and NFL fans have all been hurt by your actions.''
For Vick, it was the worst of all worlds. Before he can think about coming back to the NFL, he must clear his name in the courts. If he serves a year or 18 months on his federal charges -- as ESPN's Kelly Naqi reported federal prosecutors are recommending -- he'll be out of the NFL in 2007 and 2008. Goodell also reminded Vick he must clear up a potential case in Surry County, Va., before he can try to re-enter the league.
Left unsaid was whether Goodell would tack on a one-year suspension once Vick's legal problems are over. All Goodell said was he would review Vick's status following conclusion of the legal proceeding. Goodell made no promises, but a rehabilitated Vick, one who cooperates in every proceeding and lives a clean life, might have a chance to avoid an additional suspension.
For Vick to be reinstated after he is out of jail still won't be easy. It will take a lot of time for the commissioner to forget how Vick lied to him. In late April around the draft, Vick told Goodell that he had no involvement in dogfighting and loved animals. In Vick's plea, he admitted being part of the execution of six to eight dogs.
The gambling involvement of Vick also can't be understated. Vick admitted to setting up his dogfighting operation for wagering, one of the worst admissions of any player. Said Goodell: "Even if you personally did not place bets, as you contend, 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."
From the league's standpoint, the Vick case is closed for now. Goodell doesn't have to do anything for one or two more years, however long Vick is going to be imprisoned. As Goodell did with Tank Johnson, the commissioner will deal with Vick after he gets out of confinement.
The next -- and most interesting move -- belongs to the Falcons. The Falcons are off the hook for Vick's $6 million salary this year and probably the $7.5 million he is due in 2008 if Vick is still in prison. What Goodell did Friday was free Arthur Blank to recoup signing bonus money or even cut Vick for violating his contract by gambling.
Goodell said the Falcons are free to assert any claims or remedies available to them under the collective bargaining agreement. Goodell will probably be more forgiving than Blank. Whether or not the Falcons keep Vick on the roster indefinitely to recoup millions of dollars of prorated signing bonuses, Vick never will get the $61 million of remaining nonguaranteed base salaries for the rest of his contract. He's done in Atlanta.
Vick admitted to creating a betting ring for dogfighting. In doing so, he lost his $130 million partnership with the Falcons.
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