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A quarterback in trouble

Dog fighting latest example of Vick's bad judgment

Posted: Wednesday May 9, 2007 7:27PM; Updated: Thursday May 10, 2007 11:22AM
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Police conducting a drug investigation raided a Michael Vick-owned house in Smithfield, Va., and reported finding dozens of dogs, some injured and emaciated.
Police conducting a drug investigation raided a Michael Vick-owned house in Smithfield, Va., and reported finding dozens of dogs, some injured and emaciated.
Simon Bruty/SI
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So now it's dog fighting. For at least the fourth time in a span of about five months, Michael Vick's name has once again surfaced in connection with a story that threatens to further tarnish his reputation, leading to a growing debate about the viability of his future as the face of the Atlanta Falcons franchise.

In recent days, SI.com talked to multiple sources who have known Vick well for years, and they say his troubling pattern of recent behavior reflects a penchant for questionable judgment, an unwillingness to distance himself from the wrong crowd, and a long-standing belief that the rules don't apply to him.

While the sources spoke on the condition that their names not be used due to their relationship with Vick, two of them said they were convinced the quarterback has been involved with the illegal dog-fighting ring that authorities believe they discovered last month while conducting a drug raid on a house Vick owns in Smithfield, Va. Authorities found nearly 70 dogs and various items associated with dog fighting. Vick has maintained that a cousin lives at the house and that he was unaware pit bulls were being kept on the premises.

"He knows what's going on in that house in Virginia,'' one source said. "There's not a doubt in my mind he's involved with it.'' The other source cited Vick's longtime "affinity'' for the dog-fighting subculture, and expressed certainty that Vick was aware of what was happening at the house.

If Vick is found to be complicit in a dog-fighting ring, he will face league penalties that could include a suspension. "It's a matter that will be reviewed under the personal conduct policy at the appropriate time,'' said Greg Aiello, the NFL's vice president of public relations, on Wednesday.

While at last month's NFL Draft in New York, Vick met with league commissioner Roger Goodell, who in essence communicated to him that he couldn't breed dogs for illegal purposes and go unpunished. Days later, in an interview with Boomer Esiason of New York's MSG television network, Goodell said, "I was very clear with Michael. In my mind, that is your responsibility. People living in your house and people on your property is your responsibility. That is not an excuse from my standpoint, and I made that clear to Michael Vick.''

Seven years into an NFL career known for its peaks and valleys, Vick's off-field behavior has become almost as newsworthy as his unique on-field talents. Many wonder if he will ever mature enough to embrace the responsibilities and expectations inherent in being a franchise quarterback in the NFL. More importantly, there are questions about whether his liabilities are approaching a tipping point in Atlanta, and if 2007 could be his make-or-break season with the Falcons.

The portrait of Vick that sources painted was of a "rock star'' athlete who believes the rules don't apply to him and who seems to have little awareness of how his actions and lack of judgment reflect so poorly on the franchise that has made him its public face and paid him millions of dollars in the process.

Vick is not a "bad guy,'' the sources say, but he refuses to take direction from anyone, often fails to recognize good advice when it's offered, and is unwilling to separate himself from bad influences, who are largely friends and members of his ever-present "posse.''

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