Falcon's Owner: Vick Indictment Will Not Compromise Team

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said today that facts — and not emotions — are needed in pursuing a course of action following quarterback Michael Vick's indictment on dogfighting charges.

Blank declined to say whether he envisions Vick playing for the Falcons again. He said that right now the allegations are unproven criminal charges, and the legal process has to be respected.

Blank said the team had suggested a four-game suspension by the NFL but is satisfied with action taken by Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has ordered Vick yesterday to stay away from the team's training camp until a league review of the charges against him is completed.

Blank noted at a news conference this afternoon that Goodell has instructed the Falcons not to take any unilateral action on Vick's status pending the league review.

He said the team needed to prepare for the possibility that Vick's absence "may run into the regular season," and said that the Falcon organization "can't allow it to disrupt what the Falcon's are trying to achieve on the field and in the community."

"We are committed to doing the right thing on and off the field," Blank said. "No one will compromise what we stand for."

He called the charges "substantial" and "serious" but said that the person portrayed in the indictment was "not the young man I've gotten to know."

"I'm very disappointed that Michael has put himself in the circumstances he finds himself in," he said.

Blank also acknowledged that the indictment had "touched the emotions of people across the country."

"The notion that anyone could participate in dog fighting is incomprehensible to me," Blank said.

Falcon's President and General Manager Rich McKay said the decision to suspend Vick was the "appropriate step" to take.

He said the Falcons' would only discuss the matter at Tuesday's press conference, and would not speak publicly on the issue until the "situation changes."

Vick was ordered by Goodell on Monday to stay away from the Falcons' training camp until the league reviews the dogfighting charges against him.

"While it is for the criminal justice system to determine your guilt or innocence, it is my responsibility as commissioner of the National Football League to determine whether your conduct, even if not criminal, nonetheless violated league policies, including the Personal Conduct Policy," Goodell said in a letter to the quarterback.

The NFL said Vick would still get his preseason pay and Goodell told the Falcons to withhold any disciplinary action of their own until the league's review was completed.

Goodell told Vick the league would complete its review as quickly as possible and that he expected full cooperation.

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The Falcons open camp on Thursday, the same day Vick is scheduled to be arraigned in Richmond, Va., on charges of sponsoring a dogfighting operation.

Vick, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft, last season became the first quarterback ever to rush for more than 1,000 yards.

After his indictment last week, the NFL's position was that it would monitor developments and allow the legal process to "determine the facts."

Since then, pressure has been mounting on the league and the Falcons, particularly from animal-rights groups.

PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — demonstrated at Falcons' headquarters in Flowery Branch, Ga., on Monday and did the same outside NFL offices in New York last week. At the same time, Goodell was meeting with officials from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The league and the ASPCA are working on a program to educate players about the proper treatment of animals.

Activists also put pressure on companies that have endorsements deals with Vick to sever their ties. Nike said it would not release a fifth signature shoe, the Air Zoom Vick V, this summer. Nike spokesman Dean Stoyer said the four shoe products and three shirts that currently bear Vick's name will remain in stores.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.