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NFL will proceed cautiously on Vick

Goodell likely to wait before suspending Falcons QB

Posted: Wednesday July 18, 2007 11:22AM; Updated: Wednesday July 18, 2007 2:36PM
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Michael Vick, left, appeared with commissioner Roger Goodell at the NFL Draft in April.
Michael Vick, left, appeared with commissioner Roger Goodell at the NFL Draft in April.
Richard Schultz/WireImage.com
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The most telling 23 words regarding Michael Vick's immediate future as a football player came late in the NFL's statement about the alleged heinous, dastardly and despicable acts that led to charges being filed against the former savior of the Atlanta Falcons.

Michael Vick's guilt has not yet been proven, and we believe that all concerned should allow the legal process to determine the facts.

With that, rookie commissioner Roger Goodell sent a strong message: This is not going to be the Duke lacrosse case. The NFL is not going to preemptively strike against a player with a relatively clean slate, as Vick has. And to those who want Goodell to take Vick off the field for 2007, such as the Humane Society of United States, the league is in full agreement that the allegations are grievous ones. But Vick hasn't had 10 run-ins with the law, like Pacman Jones. He hasn't been arrested as many times as Chris Henry. So Goodell is not going to ban him from the game.

Not now, at least, from all appearances.

But make no mistake about this: Goodell will act swiftly and severely if Vick is found guilty on any of the charges. Not just because of the cruel and cowardly acts Vick is alleged to have been part and parcel to at the dogfighting compound in Virginia. But also because if the allegations are true, Goodell will feel used by Vick in a big way. In April, at the NFL Draft, with stories swirling that Vick's property had been used for dogfights, Vick told Goodell he had nothing to do with it and was rarely at the home in question.

I believe if Vick is found guilty, there will be tremendous pressure on the Feds and the judge to send him to jail and not just put him on probation. And I also believe that if he goes to jail, when Vick gets out, Goodell will be under similar pressure to suspend him for a year or longer. One of the most disturbing aspects of the indictment is it alleges Vick was involved in the dogfighting ring for six years. This was not just an occasional lark according to investigators. This was Vick's off-field sport. This was his poker, his billiards, his pickup basketball.

It's outrageous. Any normal human being -- dog owner or not -- has to ask what kind of person could execute dogs, or pit them against each other, or punish them in such tortuous ways?

The league seems ready to take a deep breath, take the picketing and the angry columns and the righteous indignation for now. But the hammer will be heavy if Vick is found guilty of even a portion of the alleged charges.

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