I said it on the SBNation Sports Report last Tuesday. I said it again on MHR Radio on Wednesday Night. Don't believe me? Take a listen, using the media player at the top of the page.
What did I say, you ask? I said that the NFL would not suspend Michael Vick as a result of his indictment. I said that the NFL would be committed to allowing Vick his due process. Vick didn't fall under the guidelines of the conduct policy because he was not a repeat offender.
There was more, however. I said that I expected the Falcons or the NFL to ask Vick to take a paid leave to focus on the court case, though the same suggestion could and should come from Vick himself out of concern for his teammates and their success in 2007. For much of the past 48 hours, the talking heads all over the NFL have said it was unlikely such a scenario would take place, never really offering an explanation as to why.
Now, all of a sudden, news breaks that NFL, NFL Players Association and the Atlanta Falcons are likely to approach Vick about doing what I thought they should have done 3 days ago, having Vick take a paid leave and get his legal problems dealt with. Of course, the Owner of the team and the Player involved would have to be on board, but do they really have a choice? Not after next Thursday, when the Falcons get a bit of a taste of life under the media spotlight when their Training Camp convenes, at the same time Vick makes his first court appearance.
Per Len Pasquarelli's article -
As incentive for Vick to consider a leave, the union is hopeful that Blank will offer to guarantee the player's full $6 million base salary for 2007. That could be a sticking point in the negotiations. No one will try to bully Vick into accepting the leave, but he might be reminded that while the league and Falcons are inclined for now to allow due process to play out in the courts, that stance is not an unalterable one, and unfolding events could possibly change the approach of Blank and of commissioner Roger Goodell.
Multiple sources at various levels of the ongoing discussions acknowledged that a consensus was beginning to galvanize that nobody, including Vick, will benefit by the quarterback's playing the 2007 season under a lingering cloud of suspicion and the ponderous legal burden of the federal indictment. In the indictment, Vick is alleged to have conspired in an illegal dogfighting venture conducted on property he owns in Surry County, Va.
Intensive talks continued Thursday with Goodell, Blank, Falcons team president and general manager Rich McKay and NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw. They discussed the various options available to them, and those discussions are expected to continue Friday.
If convicted on all counts, Vick could face a prison sentence of six years.
Neither Vick nor his attorney or agent could be reached for comment Thursday night. Blank also was unavailable for comment, and a Falcons spokesman referred to the owner's statement released earlier Thursday in which he expressed that "we are working diligently on exploring our options."
"The commissioner is concerned about the seriousness of the charges, and he wants to make sure Vick focuses on putting up the most appropriate defense," a source said. "Vick has to be convinced that it is in his best interests to take a leave of absence ... I think it's fair to say nobody's really comfortable with him playing under these circumstances."
Even a close Vick associate acknowledged early Friday that is the case.
Said the associate: "There's been a lot of stuff going on the last day or so, but the one thing that keeps getting clearer and clearer is that they don't want [Vick] around. The Falcons, the league, they know it's a mess and it's only going to get uglier if camp starts and he's on the field. If he's not [present for camp], at least there's a little bit of 'out of sight, out of mind,' you know? It removes the source of distraction. Otherwise, it's just [untenable]."
The situation also has the real possibilty to get even uglier with reports that the Falcons may just go after some of Vick's signing bonus. It might be too early to think about that in the public's eye, but not to the NFL Management Council, who are scouring Vick's contract to see what the Falcons could possibly recoup.
This situation has the capability of becoming the story of the decade in sports and may become the black-eye that haunts the NFL similar to steriods in baseball. It could be worse, however, the NFL could face what the NBA looks to be facing. Nothing is worse to the preception of a professional sport than questions surrpunding it's integrity, and with the word of the FBI investigating a referee for betting on games, including contests he was involved in, the NBA might actually have a bigger problem than the NFL. Stay tuned....
Under the leave-of-absence scenario, and given the projected timeline of any trial that could ensue from the federal indictments brought against the quarterback Tuesday, all parties would enter into the agreement, if it is consummated, with the expectation that Vick would probably miss the entire 2007 season.
While the concept of a leave has been broached conceptually to associates and advisors of Vick, it has not yet been formally presented to the Falcons star. Vick, 27, could be briefed about the possibility of a paid leave of absence, however, as early as Friday. He would likely be granted time to consider the suggestion, which would almost certainly have to be communicated by Blank, with a decision not coming until early next week.