No matter how nuanced his confession for involvement in dogfighting, Michael Vick got no leniency Friday from the NFL.
Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended the Atlanta Falcons quarterback indefinitely without pay, just hours after Vick filed a plea agreement that portrayed him as less involved than three co-defendants and guilty mainly of poor judgment for associating with them.
Vick acknowledged bankrolling gambling on the dogfights, but denied placing bets himself or taking any of the winnings. He admitted that dogs not worthy of the pit were killed 'as a result of the collective efforts' of himself and two co-defendants.
Goodell wasn't moved and didn't bother to wait until Monday, when U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson will formally accept the plea and set a sentencing date likely to land Vick in prison for one to five years.
The commissioner said Vick's admitted conduct was 'not only illegal but also cruel and reprehensible.' Even if he didn't personally place bets, Goodell said, '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.'
Goodell freed the Falcons to 'assert any claims or remedies' to recover $22 million of Vick's signing bonus from the 10-year, $130 million contract he signed in 2004.
The commissioner didn't speak to Vick but based his decision on the court filings. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Goodell may meet with Vick in the future, and Goodell said he would review the suspension after all the legal proceedings.
'You have engaged in conduct detrimental to the welfare of the NFL and have violated the league's personal conduct policy,' Goodell told Vick in a letter after meeting in New York with Falcons president and general manager Rich McKay.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank supported Goodell's decision and said:
'We hope that Michael will use this time, not only to further address his legal matters, but to take positive steps to improve his personal life.'
Earlier Friday in Richmond, Va., a 'summary of facts' signed by Vick was filed along with his written plea agreement on a federal dogfighting conspiracy charge.
'While Mr. Vick is not personally charged with or responsible for committing all of the acts alleged in the indictment, as with any conspiracy charge, he is taking full responsibility for his actions and the actions of the others involved,' the defense team said in a written statement after the plea agreement was filed.
'Mr. Vick apologizes for his poor judgment in associating himself with those involved in dog fighting and realizes he should never have been involved in this conduct,' the statement said.
Vick and his lawyers said his involvement was limited when it came to the enterprise known as the Bad Newz Kennels.
'Our position has been that we are going to try to help Judge Hudson understand all the facts and Michael's role,' Vick's defense attorney, Billy Martin, said in telephone interview. 'Michael's role was different than others associated with this incident.'
Vick's summary of facts said he provided most of the Bad Newz Kennels operation and gambling money, echoing language in plea agreements by the three co-defendants - Tony Taylor, Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips.
When the dogs won, the statement said, gambling proceeds were generally shared by Taylor, Peace and Phillips.
'Vick did not gamble by placing side bets on any of the fights. Vick did not receive any of the proceeds of the purses that were won by Bad Newz Kennels,' the court document said.
According to the statement, Vick also was involved with the others in killing six to eight dogs that did not perform well in testing sessions last April. The dogs were executed by drowning or hanging.