Vick reportedly contrite; sources say NFL to let him play for now

Updated: July 19, 2007, 10:35 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- On a day when Atlanta Falcons officials were publicly silent about the legal entanglements of Michael Vick, there was still plenty of private discussion inside the team complex Wednesday over the crisis that now swirls around the franchise and its high-profile quarterback.

Arthur Blank speaks

The following is a statement on Michael Vick by Falcons owner Arthur M. Blank:

A Message to our Fans:

We know you're anxious to hear more from us regarding the indictment of Michael Vick and its implications to the Falcons. Please be assured that we are working diligently on exploring our options and getting the right people involved in this situation.

This is an emotionally charged and complicated matter. There are a wide range of interests and legal issues that need to be carefully considered as we move ahead, including our need to respect the due process that Michael is entitled to. Also, this situation affects everyone -- our club, our players and associates, our sponsors, our fans and the Atlanta community among them -- so we must consider all of our customers in making any decisions.

Given the differing perspectives and strong feelings around this issue, we probably won't make everyone happy, but we are committed to doing the right thing. As the owner of this club that's, ultimately, my responsibility.

In the meantime, know that I'm saddened and distressed about this -- not for myself, but for our fans and community who have been so loyal to us. We will do our very best to continue to earn your support.

Arthur M. Blank
Owner & CEO

And some of the most-critical dialogue of all might have been between Vick and the man who could ultimately determine his future with the team.

Several league sources told ESPN.com on Wednesday night that Vick spoke by phone with Falcons owner Arthur Blank earlier in the day. The call was initiated by Vick, who Tuesday was indicted by federal authorities on charges related to an illegal dogfighting ring.

None of the sources knew or would divulge the exact wording of what is said to have been a fairly brief conversation. But Vick, who one associate said was "devastated" by the indictment, is believed to have been contrite, apologized for the distractions the case has created, and thanked Blank for his support.

In a statement released Thursday, Blank said the team is considering its options.

"This is an emotionally charged and complicated matter, Blank said. "There are a wide range of interests and legal issues that need to be carefully considered as we move ahead, including our need to respect the due process that Michael is entitled to. Also, this situation affects everyone -- our club, our players and associates, our sponsors, our fans and the Atlanta community among them -- so we must consider all of our customers in making any decisions.

"Given the differing perspectives and strong feelings around this issue, we probably won't make everyone happy, but we are committed to doing the right thing. As the owner of this club that's, ultimately, my responsibility."

Blank added that he was "saddened and distressed about this -- not for myself, for our fans and community who have been so loyal to us."

Vick's legal troubles prompted Nike to suspend the release of its latest product line named after Vick. Nike has told retailers it will not release a fifth signature shoe, the Air Zoom Vick V, this summer. Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer said the four shoe products and three shirts that currently bear Vick's name will remain in stores.

Stoyer said Nike still has a standing contract with Vick, but declined to speculate on his future with the company.

In other developments Thursday, high-ranking Falcons officials, including Blank and team president and general manager Rich McKay, attempted to familiarize themselves with the indictment and other elements of the case.

There was at least one conference call between Falcons officials and the league office to clarify the options available to both entities, and to discuss a possible course of action.

The Associated Press reported that after consulting with the Falcons, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and top league officials agreed Wednesday to let Vick play as the legal process determines the facts.

OTL: Blank Check

Outside the Lines (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET) takes a look at the value of Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank's investment. OTL

A person with knowledge of the meeting, who requested anonymity so the case would not be influenced, said the NFL would stick to that position for the foreseeable future, despite its new personal conduct policy, the AP reported.

It is not known if Vick and Blank plan a face-to-face meeting in coming days. Blank only arrived back in the country early Wednesday morning after a trip to Africa, on which he was accompanied by McKay. The whereabouts of Vick are unknown.

According to a summons issued Wednesday, the Falcons quarterback is scheduled to appear in a Richmond, Va., court on July 26 for bond and arraignment hearings. That is the same day Atlanta is scheduled for its first on-field practice under first-year coach Bobby Petrino.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is planning a protest at the NFL offices in New York on Friday morning to demand action against Vick.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.