Com­mis­sioner plagued by Vick ques­tions

Vick fac­ing in­creased pres­sure to strike a deal with prose­cu­tors

The Covington News - - SPORTS - Larry Lage

ALLEN PARK Roger Good­ell wants to talk foot­ball. Michael Vick keeps get­ting in the way.

The NFL com­mis­sioner, mak­ing a tour of train­ing camps, raved about Detroit Li­ons coach Rod Marinelli and his play­ers af­ter visit­ing them Thurs­day. He spoke to them mostly about their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as play­ers.

As soon as Good­ell started tak­ing ques­tions dur­ing a news con­fer­ence, how­ever, he was asked about Vick. And the ques­tions kept com­ing.

There has been an un­re­lent­ing drum­beat of news con­cern­ing Vick, who is charged with run­ning a dog­fight­ing ring on his Vir­ginia prop­erty. Good­ell in­sists this is not eclips­ing en­thu­si­asm about the game it­self.

“I don’t think it’s over­shad­ow­ing the sea­son,” he said. “I think our fans are ex­cited about foot­ball, but I un­der­stand the in­ter­est in the story.

Vick is fac­ing in­creased pres­sure to strike a deal with prose­cu­tors in his fed­eral dog­fight­ing con­spir­acy case. He con­ferred with his lawyers for hours Wed­nes­day.

“We’re go­ing to do what we al­ways said we were go­ing to do, which is rely on the facts,” Good­ell said. “If there is some type of a plea agree­ment, then we will ob­vi­ously take the time to un­der­stand what that plea is and we’ll see how it fits into our per­sonal con­duct (pol­icy).”

Good­ell barred Vick from tak­ing part in train­ing camp while the league in­ves­ti­gates. The com­mis­sioner said the league is mon­i­tor­ing talks be­tween Vick’s lawyers and prose­cu­tors. He wants the le­gal process to run its course be­fore he rules on Vick’s fu­ture in the league.

Un­der NFL pol­icy, a player can be banned for life for il­le­gal gam­bling or as­so­ci­at­ing with gam­blers, and Vick might face that penalty.

“(The gam­bling) is cer­tainly an is­sue,” Good­ell said af­ter meet­ing with the Cleve­land Browns at their year-round train­ing fa­cil­ity. “Law en­force­ment may be con­cerned about cer­tain things about this. We may be con­cerned about other as­pects of this. That’s why we want to eval­u­ate what the gov­ern­ment has. We don’t know all of the facts on that. Michael’s team may not know all the facts at this point in time.”

The quar­ter­back was linked to bet­ting by a state­ment signed by for­mer co-de­fen­dant Tony Tay­lor, who pleaded guilty and agreed to co­op­er­ate with the gov­ern­ment, and the July 17 in­dict­ment.

Two other co- de­fen­dants — Pur­nell Peace and Qua­nis Phillips — are to en­ter plea agree­ments Fri­day. Prose­cu­tors have said they will seek a su­per­sed­ing in­dict­ment later this month that could mean ad­di­tional charges against Vick.

Vick has pleaded not guilty to con­spir­acy to travel in in­ter­state com­merce in aid of un­law­ful ac­tiv­i­ties and con- spir­ing to spon­sor a dog in an an­i­mal fight­ing ven­ture. If con­victed, he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Ac­cord­ing to the state­ment signed by Tay­lor as part of his plea agree­ment, Vick fi­nanced vir­tu­ally all of the “Bad Newz Ken­nels” dog­fight­ing en­ter­prise on Vick’s prop­erty.

A search of his prop­erty in April turned up dozens of pit bulls, some of them in­jured, as well as”equip­ment com­monly used in dog­fight­ing. The in­dict­ment said dogs that lost fights or fared poorly in test fights were some­times ex­e­cuted by hang­ing, elec­tro­cu­tion or other bru­tal means.

The grisly de­tails have fu­eled pub­lic protests against Vick and have cost him some lu­cra­tive en­dorse­ment deals.

Vick’s charges have also hurt the NFL’s im­age in an off­sea­son also marked by sus­pen­sions of Adam “Pacman” Jones, Tank John­son and Chris Henry for off-field con­duct. Good­ell con­tends just four play­ers out of about 2,000 in the league are gen­er­at­ing most of the scru­tiny.

“I’ve said to Pacman and any player, ‘ You have to earn your way back into the Na­tional Foot­ball League and you have to do it through your con­duct,’” Good­ell said. “It’s not about what you tell the com­mis­sioner, or what you tell any­one. It’s your con­duct and your ac­tiv­i­ties. I was dis­ap­pointed with some of the ac­tiv­i­ties that Pacman got in­volved this spring, af­ter we had met and had a lot of dis­cus­sions.

“ Michael knows how I feel.”

Good­ell’s visit was well re­ceived by the Browns. Sev­eral of the play­ers asked ques­tions fol­low­ing the com­mis­sioner’s 15-minute talk that

ex­actly touched upon sub­jects rang­ing from con­cus­sions to con­duct.

“It was a treat. It broke camp up for 15 or 20 min­utes,” wide re­ceiver Joe Jure­vi­cius said. “Ob­vi­ously, he’s a man with a lot of power and he’ll be the face of the NFL for a while. He’s go­ing to do a lot of great things and he came to say that he’s not do­ing this to hurt any­body. He’s do­ing this to help us.”

Dur­ing the Browns’ twohour prac­tice dur­ing a hu­mid af­ter­noon, Good­ell and for­mer Cleve­land quar­ter­back Bernie Kosar min­gled with fans, who had their own ques­tions and com­ments.

Good­ell has sensed noth­ing but pos­i­tive feed­back and sup­port dur­ing his tour of the camps.

“I’m proud of our play­ers. I’m proud of what they do in the com­mu­ni­ties and on the field,” he said. “I think more has to be dis­cussed on that. We have al­ways talked about the game _ hav­ing the fo­cus stay on foot­ball. We’re here now and it’s foot­ball time.”

Haraz N. Ghanbari/The As­so­ci­ated Press

Bark­ing up the wrong tree: At­lanta Fal­cons quar­ter­back Michael Vick, right, is es­corted by U.S. Mar­shals, as he ar­rives at the fed­eral court­house in Rich­mond, Va., for his ar­raign­ment, Thurs­day, July 26, 2007. Vick pleaded not guilty Thurs­day to fed­eral dog­fight­ing charges and was re­leased with­out bond un­til a Nov. 26 trial.

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