Hours after releasing an admission that he had helped kill dogs and had bankrolled gambling as part of a dogfighting operation, Michael Vick got an indefinite suspension from the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell cited the “cruel and reprehensible” nature of Vick’s acts, but it does not necessarily preclude Vick from a return to gridiron action in the future:
The NFL indefinitely suspended Michael Vick without pay Friday just hours after he acknowledged in court papers that he did, indeed, bankroll gambling on dogfighting and helped kill some dogs not worthy of the pit.
Vick, however, insisted he placed no bets of his own nor took any winnings.
In disciplining Vick, commissioner Roger Goodell said Vick’s admitted conduct was “not only illegal but also cruel and reprehensible” and regardless whether he personally placed bets, “your actions in funding the betting and your association with illegal gambling both violate the terms of your NFL player contract and expose you to corrupting influences in derogation of one of the most fundamental responsibilities of an NFL player.”
Many wondered whether Vick would get a chance to plea out without taking responsibility for killing dogs or gambling on the illegal dogfights. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that he would not do so, but obviously the US Attorney on the case refused to cut a deal otherwise. Vick didn’t have much leverage; his three co-conspirators had already cut deals to testify against him.
Instead, Vick was forced to capitulate and submit a stipulation that the government would have proven a number of allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. The crimes included interstate transport to promote an illegal business, conspiring to do same, buying the property explicitly for that purpose, and so on. Paragraph 32 states that Vick and his partners “rolled” or tested dogs in April 2007, when the investigation first hit the news, and that “approximately 6-8 dogs … were killed by various methods, including hanging and drowning. Vick agrees and stipulates that these dogs all died as a result of the collective efforts of Peace, Phillips, and Vick.” Paragraph 4 states that “Most of the “Bad Newz Kennels” operation and gambling monies were provided by Vick.”
It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Vick’s attorneys say that he will have a statement for the press later. It’s hard to see how he can spin this any other way than to admit to being just a little depraved.
However, depraved sells in the NFL. Even if Vick gets the 12-18 months that some have suggested, he could be ready for 2009. Will the NFL remain as offended then as they are now? As Duane Patterson and I discussed today on CQ Radio, Baltimore’s Ray Lewis managed to come back to the NFL after pleading out to obstruction of justice in a case where human beings died rather than dogs. The league shrugged that off, and Lewis has been a good citizen ever since, at least publicly.
Will they let Vick do the same? It’s hard to imagine that any team will be too keen on attaching themselves to Vick at the moment, but that could change in a couple of years. Once he’s paid the price for his crime, he’ll probably be 29 years old and still in good shape. Look for the NFL to soften its stance and allow Vick to latch onto a team — and don’t be surprised if he lands in Oakland.