NFL commissioner Roger Goodell insisted Michael Vick-related news is not eclipsing enthusiasm about the game itself.
"I don't think it's overshadowing the season," Goodell said Thursday after visiting with Detroit Lions coaches and players. "I think our fans are excited about football, but I understand the interest in the story."
Vick conferred with his attorneys for hours Wednesday as the Atlanta Falcons star faced increased pressure to strike a deal with prosecutors in his federal dogfighting conspiracy case.
"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)."
Under an edict from Goodell, Vick is barred from taking part in training camp while the league investigates his role in a dogfighting operation.
Goodell said the league is still working on its review and is not closely monitoring talks between Vick's lawyers and prosecutors.
Under NFL policy, a player can be banned for life for gambling or associating with gambling and Vick might face that penalty.
The talented 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, 35, of Virginia Beach, and Quanis Phillips, 28, of Atlanta — will enter plea agreements Friday morning, and prosecutors have said they will seek a superseding indictment later this month that could mean additional charges against Vick.
Vick, 27, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and conspiring 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 in Virginia.
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 of his lucrative endorsement deals.
It has also seemed to hurt the NFL's image in an offseason also marked by suspensions Adam "Pacman" Jones, Tank Johnson and Chris Henry for off-the-field conduct.
"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 exactly how I feel."