Falcons distancing themselves from Vick
Even though Michael Vick is innocent until proven guilty, he's clearly fallen out of favor with the Falcons' front office, writes John Clayton.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank and general manager Rich McKay spoke extensively Tuesday about quarterback Michael Vick, and the tone of the news conference was in past tense.
Though innocent until proven guilty, Vick, the face of the Falcons' franchise, is on the outside looking in. His days as a Falcon appear to be numbered. Blank, McKay and the Falcons are ready to move on while Vick fights his dogfighting case in a federal courtroom in Richmond, Va. Blank drafted the language of a four-game suspension but didn't serve it because commissioner Roger Goodell stepped in and put Vick's status on hold.
For years, Blank and entire Falcons organization stood behind Vick with zeal. Vick was exciting. He filled the Georgia Dome with fans. Blank rewarded him with a $130 million contract extension with a belief that Vick's magic legs and powerful arm could carry the organization to the Super Bowl.
That Blank was willing to suspend him for four games even before Vick registers a plea to his federal indictment was telling. The one-time leader of the Falcons' offense is no longer in a position to lead. He was the toast of Atlanta. Now, he's toast. To regain his standing with the organization, he'll have to fight and defeat these charges and then try to fight his way back on the roster.
Imagine the anger of the owner, flying back from an African vacation, when he learned the details of Vick's indictment. The crime of dogfighting is so disgusting and embarrassing that the front office spent days studying ways to separate itself from Vick instead of embracing him. Blank and McKay studied the concepts of just releasing him. They settled on suspending him.
Blank didn't want to give Vick a paid leave of absence. To potentially pay Vick $6 million and then learn he is guilty didn't work for an owner who has pride in the businesses he owns. If anything, the Falcons might look to reclaim some of the money he's been paid.
Understand that the decision by Goodell to order Vick out of camp was a compromise mutually worked out between the NFLPA, the league and the Falcons. The Falcons decided to keep him off the field as long as they could. Rules mandate team suspensions can't be longer than four games. Blank wanted the max.
The three parties worked all day Monday to come up with what everyone thought could be an acceptable solution. Credit Goodell with a save in some regards, but what he can't patch is the icy relationship Vick now has with the Falcons. It is likely Goodell will let a good portion of the training camp pass before he lets Vick return.
Anyone thinking Vick will be part of the Falcons this year is living in a fantasy world. It's possible, but odds are building against it. First, he has to clear his name from the dogfighting rap. It's Joey Harrington's team temporarily. Vick remains part of the team, but he's on his own for the time being. John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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VICK SENTENCED TO 23 MONTHS
Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison and three years' probation for his role in a dogfighting conspiracy. The suspended Falcons quarterback is looking at a scheduled release of July 2009. Story
Update• GM: Falcons will attempt to trade Vick
• Lawyer: Vick might move to halfway house
• Former Vick estate fails to sell again
• Vick house fails to sell at auction
• Vick files for bankruptcy protection
• Prosecutor: Vick's Virginia trial can wait
• Vick ordered to repay Canadian bank $2.4 million
• Judge denies NFL motion to reverse Vick ruling
• Report: Vick not playing organized football in jail
• Report: Vick passes time with prison-yard football
• Vick's state dogfighting trial to begin June 27
• Munson: Vick yet to enter drug treatment
The sentence• Vick sent to Kansas to serve rest of sentence
• Vick asked judge for leniency before sentencing
• Vick sentenced to 23 months | Document (pdf)
• Poll: What do you think? | What they're saying
• Clayton: Sentence puts career in jeopardy
• Munson: Tough sentence by displeased judge
• Teammates show support at Falcons game
• Can Vick return to playing in NFL?
• Pasquarelli: No longer top of mind in Atlanta
• Last Vick co-defendant sentenced
• Podcasts : Cossack | Schlereth | Munson/Naqi | Pasquarelli
• Chat wrap: David Cornwell
Post Plea• NFL wants court to reverse Vick bonus ruling
• Victory for Vick: QB can keep $20 million bonus
• Fifth defendant in Vick case receives probation
• Vick's house for sale for $1.1M
• Some Falcons to visit Vick in prison
• PETA unveils new e-card
• Former Virginia estate fails to sell at auction
• Out of Falcons' sight, almost out of mind
• Judge's casework offers look at possible sentence
• Remaining dogs placed with rescue groups
• Source: Feds may push judge to up sentence
• NFLPA argues Vick should not lose roster bonus
• Vick co-defendants get 18, 21 months in prison
• Vick agrees to put up almost $1M for dogs' care
• Vick given April trial date on state charges
• Vick surrenders to begin serving sentence early
• Home at center of Vick dogfighting scandal sold
• Vick fires one of his lawyers in dogfighting case
• Man who sold Vick pit bull pleads guilty
• Man connected to Vick dogfight ring pleads guilty
• Third bank sues Vick, claims he defaulted on loan
• Arbiter: Falcons have right to reclaim bonuses
• PETA: Vick had class on animal cruelty
• Evaluations show 48 of Vick's dogs placeable
• Vick tests positive for marijuana
• Vick supporters turn out for town meeting
• Vick's apology notes fetch $10.2K at auction
Vick's Plea/NFL Suspension• Vick pleads guilty to federal dogfighting charge
• The plea (PDF) | Statement of facts (PDF)
• Vick's statement: Watch it | Read it
• Roger Cossack explains plea deal
• Poll: Vick should be banned
• Va. Tech, Beamer continue to support Vick
• Vick supporters drown out protesters
• NFL suspends Vick indefinitely | Goodell (PDF)
• Chris Mortensen on Vick's suspension
• Vick files plea agreement admitting to dogfighting
Indictment• Marbury's about-face: Vick 'is 100 percent wrong'
• National NAACP: Vick 'not a victim' | Audio
• Atlanta NAACP: Vick should be allowed to return
• Falcons come to terms with 'ex-teammate'
• Vick timeline | What they're saying
• Helyar: Even Atlanta turns against Vick
• Goodell: Vick not overshadowing season
• Vick co-defendant pleads guilty to charges
• Tony Taylor: Summary of Facts | Plea agreement
• Hometown residents stand by Vick
• Falcons had planned to suspend Vick
• Commish tells Vick to avoid camp
• Vick indicted | The indictment (pdf) | Civil arrest warrant (pdf)
Town Hall meeting• Town Hall chat wrap: Chadiha
Previous columns/analysis• Munson: Q&A on Vick reporting to prison early
• Munson: Looking at Judge Hudson
• Vick's high school learning lessons
• Bryant: Confounded by race issue
• Munson: Q&A about local indictment
• Munson: Next focus for Vick is length of sentence
• Schlabach: Vick an afterthought on VT campus
• Chadiha: Vick not running from truth
• Hill: Coverage means bigger issues ignored
• Wojciechowski: Pay attention to the fallen star
• Bryant: Vick's plea deal comes with baggage
• Bryant: In failing Vick, NFLPA fails itself
• Munson: Vick plea means surrender
• Forde: Vick's epic fall
• Pasquarelli: Major blow for Falcons
• Chadiha: Lots of lessons to be learned
• Wojciechowski: Punishment with teeth
• Easterbrook: Little sympathy?
• Clayton: Vick's NFL future might be bleak
• E-Ticket: A history of mistrust
• Chadiha: Vick's bad choices