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Vick told to not go to camp

NFL commissioner says Atlanta quarterback's conduct is under review after dogfighting charges. Falcons will address the league's stance today.

July 24, 2007|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

The NFL on Monday ordered Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick to stay away from the team's training camp until the league reviews the federal dogfighting charges against him.

In a letter written by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the quarterback was told, "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."

Vick was not immediately available for comment Monday, and telephone messages left late Monday night for his attorney in Virginia were not returned. The Falcons scheduled a news conference today to discuss the league's stance.

The Falcons open training camp in Flowery Branch, Ga., on Thursday, the same day Vick, 27, is scheduled to appear inside a U.S. District courtroom in Richmond, Va. Attorneys are expected to decide at the hearing whether they will request a jury trial or a bench trial heard by a federal judge.

Vick, the league's former No. 1 overall draft pick from Virginia Tech who directed the Falcons to the NFC championship game in 2005, was indicted by a federal grand jury last week. The charges allege he was a central figure with three others who violated laws against dogfighting and gambling while operating Bad Newz Kennels on property Vick owns in Surry, Va.

The indictment alleged pit bulls that didn't fare well in fights were executed by hanging, drowning, electrocution, shooting and beating. Vick faces a maximum sentence of six years in prison and $350,000 in fines if convicted.

Vick hasn't publicly discussed the dogfighting case since April, when he denied involvement.

But animal rights groups have railed against the quarterback since the indictment, holding demonstrations such as Monday's in Flowery Branch, where an estimated four dozen people protested in a rally organized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They held signs reading "Kick Vick," "Tackle Cruelty" and "Sack Vick!"

"Just because he's famous, he shouldn't get off the hook," said Emory Lewman, 12, of Sandy Springs, Ga. "What he did was terrible."

The Humane Society of the United States said the NFL "rightly recognized that it just cannot be business as usual for Vick and the Falcons with this chilling set of facts laid out in the federal indictment," President and Chief Executive Wayne Pacelle said.

"The NFL has taken an important first step, and it is our sincerest hope that Michael Vick not suit up for play prior to the resolution of these serious charges in federal court."

Vick will still receive preseason pay, and Goodell told the Falcons to withhold any disciplinary action of their own until the league's review was completed.

The NFL said Goodell informed Vick in the letter that "the review would be completed as soon as possible and that Vick's full cooperation is expected."

The commissioner's order came after league sources said last week Goodell wanted Vick to take a paid leave of absence but the quarterback was resisting, saying he wanted to play football.

Because of his legal calendar, Vick could relinquish his job to Falcons backup quarterback Joey Harrington, who has struggled in starting jobs with the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins.

Goodell's decision follows his crackdown since a string of player arrests subjected the league to criticism for not properly disciplining players who run afoul of the law. Goodell previously suspended Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry and Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson for all or part of the 2007 season.

Vick is 'the most high-profile of the NFL's legally troubled players -- he earned $20 million in salary and endorsements last year. In April, the league summoned the quarterback to the NFL draft as a guest speaker during a tribute to those killed and wounded during the Virginia Tech campus shootings this year.

Since the indictment, Falcons owner Arthur Blank has announced he was "saddened and distressed" by Vick's case, Nike has suspended the release of a new Vick shoe, and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) has called for the player's immediate suspension.

NFL Players Assn. spokesman Carl Francis declined to comment on Vick. Francis said "it's possible" that the union would issue a statement today.

Times staff writer Greg Johnson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

NFL camps

The Atlanta Falcons will open training camp Thursday without Michael Vick. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the first to start camp, five more teams open camp in the next three days, and every team will be in action by next Monday:

* Pittsburgh: St. Vincent College, Latrobe, Pa., Monday.

* Dallas: Alamodome, San Antonio, today.

* Detroit: Lions Training Facility, Allen Park, Mich., Wednesday.

* Minnesota: Minnesota State Mankato, Wednesday.

* New Orleans: Millsaps College, Jackson, Miss., Wednesday.

* Atlanta: Falcons Training Facility, Flowery Branch, Ga., Thursday.

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