By DAVE GOLDBERG
AP Football Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - 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
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 as
quickly as possible 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.
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.
The team declined comment other than to say a news conference
was scheduled Tuesday at owner Arthur Blank's office in Atlanta.
Vick, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft, last season
became the first quarterback ever to rush for more than 1,000
After his 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 put pressure on 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.
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.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)