Monday Morning QB (cont.)
Posted: Monday July 23, 2007 1:57AM; Updated: Monday July 23, 2007 11:11AM
WHAT I THINK IS LIKELY TO HAPPEN
Teams can levy suspensions of up to four weeks without pay for conduct detrimental to the team. My belief is that Blank is likely to do this to Vick. Players do not get paid their salary during training camp, so it's more likely than not that Blank would levy such a sanction for the first four weeks of the regular season, which would take Vick out of the Falcons games at Minnesota and Jacksonville, then at home against Carolina and Houston. Under this scenario, he would be eligible to return Oct. 7, at Tennessee ... assuming there are no further sanctions from Goodell and the league office. After that, depending on the status of the case (and when it goes to trial), Blank could either have Vick return to the team and begin practicing, or he could give Vick a paid leave of absence because he may feel his presence would be more of a distraction than an aid to winning. Tampa Bay did this with Keyshawn Johnson for the final six games of the 2003 season, in effect paying Johnson to stay away from the team. And Philadelphia did it two seasons ago with Terrell Owens.
Regarding camp, I can't tell you what's going to happen, other than I doubt Vick will be on hand the first day he's available, which would be Friday.
Again, I'm telling you what I think could happen. I don't know what will happen. I don't believe anyone does, because Blank was still mulling what to do Sunday. Through this process, Blank's biggest confidante has been GM Rich McKay. Both were keeping their own counsel and not talking to many outsiders over the weekend -- at least not about anything of substance. "Blank's a very tough read right now,'' I was told Sunday night by someone involved in the Vick discussions.
"This is one of the most slippery slopes I've ever seen the league and a team have to handle,'' one veteran league official told me Sunday. "Nothing is right. Nothing is wrong. The league and the Falcons are going to get killed in the court of public opinion, no matter what they do.''
One more headache down the road: The NFL believes the state of Virginia could file its own charges against Vick. So even if Vick is cleared of all charges in the federal case, his 2008 season -- should there be one for him -- could be clouded by a second case.
THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE
"This case is going to paint football players with a broad brush,'' veteran Houston tight end Mark Bruener told me. "The brush paints a pretty ugly broad stroke on the 97, 98 percent of players in this league who never do anything wrong.''
"To a lot of fans,'' said Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber, "it'll be an indictment on all players, not just one. I think the Falcons or the league has to find a way to ... not make an example of Michael, but to find a way to deal with the embarrassment of it. Something significant.''
And what of the Falcons, and any hope they have for the 2007 season? Several teammates have said they need Vick to have a chance to win. But that's what teammates are bound to say. Said Barber: "Going from Vick to Harrington, and no disrespect to Joey, but it's impossibly different. You're going from the most dynamic quarterback in NFL history to a conventional quarterback. It will change how everyone plays them.''
It will change a lot of things. It already has.