Falcons' White: Vick did nothing wrong
White, who was a guest at a 30th birthday party for Vick that ended with a shooting, thinks his former Atlanta Falcons teammate did nothing wrong by hosting the June 25 event.
"That was a bad thing that happened over there," White said Saturday. "He got out of it, and everything's good."
White, a two-time Pro Bowl receiver, says he and Vick left "about the same time," which, according to a prosecutor in Virginia Beach, Va., occurred before the shooting at a restaurant.
No charges were filed because police could not identify the shooter and said they received no cooperation from victim Quanis Phillips and other witnesses in their investigation.
Phillips, who was shot in the leg, was a co-defendant in the dogfighting scandal that resulted in an 18-month federal prison sentence for Vick.
White, though, believes Phillips was not invited to the party and that Vick is working hard to distance himself from those contributed to his sordid past.
Considering that the NFL did not suspend Vick, White thinks commissioner Roger Goodell might agree. Vick is entering his second season as a reserve quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I'm just happy for him that he didn't get suspended or anything like that," White said. "They didn't give him any time off."
White, who added that neither the NFL nor Virginia Beach police contacted him after the incident, has long supported Vick.
The two became friends quickly in 2005, when the Falcons drafted White 27th overall and Vick was about to begin his third Pro Bowl season in Atlanta.
Vick had the NFL's richest contract, but White was impressed that he was genuinely interested in a rookie. He has never hidden his support of Vick.
Just a few hours after Vick was sentenced in December 2007, White tried to honor his disgraced teammate in a home blowout loss to New Orleans. After White scored an early touchdown, Atlanta receiver Joe Horn pulled up the bottom of White's jersey so the Monday Night TV audience could see his "Free Mike Vick" T-shirt.
The NFL fined White $10,000.
White stayed in touch with Vick while his friend was behind bars in Leavenworth, Kan. Following Vick's release, White says they began contacting each other three or four times a week.
"I talked to him right before he went to training camp," White said. "When I seen it on the NFL Network or whatever that he wasn't going to be suspended, I talked to him, and he was like, 'Yeah,' but it never should've gotten to that point. He didn't do anything wrong."
At the start of training camp last year, White held out the first week to earn a bigger contract, and Vick was among those he consulted. When the Falcons signed him to a new six-year deal worth with $18.6 million guaranteed, White told Vick he'd "always have his back."
White didn't care that Vick filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection while he was in prison, claiming approximately $20 million in debt.
"Yeah," White said. "That's my boy, man."
The Falcons believe White has the potential to improve even though he's coming off a Pro Bowl season that included 85 catches for 1,153 yards and a career-high 11 touchdowns.
Third-year coach Mike Smith is impressed that White has not missed a workout session, voluntary or involuntary, since the end of March.
White last year became the first Falcon with at least 80 catches and 1,100 yards receiving in three straight seasons, but Smith says the team has even higher expectations for quarterback Matt Ryan's No. 1 target.
"I think he's in the best shape he's been in since I've been here," Smith said. "I don't know about the time prior to when I was here, but he's in very, very good shape. He looks very explosive."
Just as Vick was friendly with him, White has rededicated himself to helping young players such as rookie Kerry Meier, a fifth-round draft pick, adapt to the demands of the NFL.
"I want to be more of a veteran leader," White said. "This will be my sixth year going into the league, and I just want to be a big part of our team. I love being in that locker room and sharing things."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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