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Vick ordered to avoid camp during investigation

7/24/2007 - NFL Michael Vick Atlanta Falcons + more

NEW YORK -- Michael Vick was ordered by commissioner Roger
Goodell on Monday to stay away from the Atlanta Falcons' training
camp until the league reviews the dogfighting charges against him.

"While it is for the criminal justice system to determine your
guilt or innocence, it is my responsibility as commissioner of the
National Football League to determine whether your conduct, even if
not criminal, nonetheless violated league policies, including the
Personal Conduct Policy," Goodell said in a letter to the
quarterback.

The NFL said Vick would still get his preseason pay and Goodell
told the Falcons to withhold any disciplinary action of their own
until the league's review was completed.

Goodell told Vick the league would complete its review quickly
and that he expected full cooperation. The review is expected to
involve conversations with federal law enforcement officials so the
NFL can determine the strength of the case against Vick.

In addition to the league's security department, Goodell is hiring an independent investigator to explore the allegations in Vick's federal indictment, a league official said Tuesday. The official declined to identify the investigator.

The Falcons open camp on Thursday, the same day Vick is
scheduled to be arraigned in Richmond, Va., on charges of
sponsoring a dogfighting operation.

Team officials declined comment other than to say a news
conference was scheduled Tuesday at owner Arthur Blank's office in
Atlanta.

Blank, general manager Rich McKay and new coach Bobby Petrino
are expected to speak publicly for the first time about their
embattled quarterback. Falcons spokesman Reggie Roberts said Vick,
who is in Virginia, will not attend the news conference.

Petrino's wife, Becky Petrino, said her husband had not yet
returned home when The Associated Press called on Monday night.


Meanwhile, the prosecutor in Surry County, Virginia,
says Vick will not be indicted when a grand jury meets
tomorrow -- largely because a local dogfighting investigation has
taken a back seat to the federal probe.

Surry County Commonwealth's Attorney Gerald Poindexter said
Monday that his investigation has been on hiatus since the feds
conducted their first search of a house owned by Vick where
evidence of dogfighting was found.

Surry County's grand jury is scheduled to convene again in
September.

Vick hasn't commented publicly since the team held a mini-camp
in May. None of the phone messages left on his cell phone have been
returned. Lawyer Lawrence Woodward of Newport News, Va., also did
not respond to interview requests Monday.

Vick, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft, last season
became the first quarterback ever to rush for more than 1,000
yards. He led the Falcons to an NFC wild-card win 2002, his first
season as a starter, and in 2004, Vick's play helped the Falcons
reach the conference title game.

NFL veteran players will earn $1,100 per week from the beginning
of camp until the first week of the regular season.

The contract extension Vick signed in 2004, a 10-year deal worth
approximately $130 million, calls for a $6 million salary this
season.

After Vick's indictment last week, the NFL's position was that
it would monitor developments and allow the legal process to
"determine the facts."

Since then, pressure has been mounting on the league and the
Falcons, particularly from animal-rights groups.

PETA -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals --
demonstrated at Falcons' headquarters in Flowery Branch, Ga., on
Monday and did the same outside NFL offices in New York last week.
At the same time, Goodell was meeting with officials from the
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The
league and the ASPCA are working on a program to educate players
about the proper treatment of animals.

Activists also pressured companies that have endorsements deals
with Vick to sever their ties. Nike said it would 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.

The Humane Society of the United States responded to the NFL's
directive by renewing its call that the apparel company sever its
relationship with Vick while the charges are pending.

Goodell's order came down after lengthy discussions involving
the league office, the Falcons and the NFL Players' Association.
Gene Upshaw, the NFLPA's executive director, was one of the first
to side with Goodell when he instituted the strong Personal Conduct
Policy after a season of repeated misdeeds by players.

Disciplining players has turned out to be Goodell's main focus
since taking over last Sept. 1 for the retired Paul Tagliabue.

Since the end of last season, he has used the new policy to
suspend Adam "Pacman" Jones of the Tennessee Titans for the
entire 2007 season; and Chris Henry of Cincinnati and former
Chicago Bear Tank Johnson for eight games each.

Those calling for Vick's suspension have noted that Jones, who
faces charges of coercion in Las Vegas stemming from a shooting
that left a man paralyzed, wasn't convicted when he was suspended.

However, league officials said there were mitigating
circumstances in the Jones case.

In January, he accepted a plea agreement to dismiss public
intoxication and disorderly conduct charges in Tennessee if he
behaved himself for six months. League officials say that the
charges in Las Vegas voided that agreement and were a major factor
in his suspension.

The indictment of Vick alleges that about eight young dogs were
put to death at his Surry County home after they were found not
ready to fight. They were killed "by hanging, drowning and/or
slamming at least one dog's body to the ground."

Purses for the fights ranged from hundreds of dollars to the
thousands, and participants and spectators often placed side bets
on the outcome, according to the indictment

If convicted, Vick and three others charged with him could face
up to six years in prison, and $350,000 in fines.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.