Vick pleads not guilty: The Falcons QB is scheduled for trial on November 26th

Round 3 of the Michael Vick “Who let the dogs fight” soap opera took place yesterday. Instead of being on the practice field with his teammates, Vick was in the federal courtroom of U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson professing his innocence to dog fighting allegations and he said through his attorney Billy Martin that he looked forward to “clearing my good name.”

The scene was right out of a John Grisham novel as the public and media turned out in full force at the courthouse steps in Richmond, Va to get a glimpse of the NFL’s fallen star. Many in the crowd were there in support of the Richmond based PETA organization. Hundreds of them booed and screamed at Vick as he entered and left U.S. District Court without speaking. The court proceedings were short and to the point with Vick pleading “not guilty” in a firm voice when asked how he plead to the charges in front of him. Vick also as expected asked for the matter to be tried in front of a jury, which has been scheduled for November 26, 2007 (4 days after the Falcons play at home versus the Colts on National TV). His three co-defendants also pleaded not guilty. Vick was released without having to post bond, but he must turn in his passport (No CFL), report to authorities if he is leaving the Virginia area, and was ordered to not sell or possess a dog. Following the arraignment, Vick left Billy Martin to make public comments for him including again professing his innocence and apologizing to his Mother Brenda Boddie and his Falcons teammates for the distraction.

The arraignment was the culmination of an extremely difficult week for Vick and the NFL. Before the court proceedings the week featured rampant protests by PETA and other animal rights groups at the NFL headquarters, causing Commissioner Roger Goodell to start round two of the Vick dog fighting case by informing the star quarterback to not report to Falcons training camp. The Commissioner did the move so that he and special NFL investigative attorney Eric Holder could gather as much detail as possible regarding the case. The public also found out that Falcons owner Arthur Blank and GM Rich McKay were also going to suspend him for 4 weeks for misconduct (Keyshawn rule), but the Commissioner told them to wait until Holder and Goodell finished their investigation. I believe the NFL is trying to ensure that they have covered all of the their bases regarding the Vick case before they issue the inevitable year long suspension that we know is coming. The NFL cannot afford to come down lightly on Vick despite him being only being charged and not convicted at the moment. Vick deserves his day in court, but we know that the NFL “shield” is strong and they want to show Vick and any other disruptive players that conduct enforcement will be swift and strong. The league has already set a precedent by suspending Pacman Jones for a year without a conviction and now they understand that the world is watching to see how they handle one of their biggest stars getting in trouble.

Now that Vick has entered his plea and had his court date set, he would be best served to strike a deal with Blank on a leave of absence with pay, so he and his high powered attorney can concentrate on his court battles where he is facing six years in prison and fines of up to $350,000 dollars. Vick has nothing to gain by playing or filing a NFLPA grievance other than having a weekly circus like atmosphere wherever the Falcons are playing. If he doesn’t cooperate with Blank and the NFL, you could see the Falcons handle the matter by releasing Vick released ala Tank Johnson. The team would be within their rights as NFL contracts are not guaranteed and they would have to eat $6 Million dollars in 2007 and $15 Million in 2008 on the salary cap, but that amount maybe well worth it to get rid of probably the NFL’s biggest legal headache ever.

Lloyd’s Leftovers

Bengals LB Thurman will miss another season – Odell Thurman’s petition for reinstatement for the 2007 season was denied Thursday by commissioner Roger Goodell. The Commish continuing his “Wyatt Earp” impersonation decided that the Cincinnati Bengals middle linebacker should miss another season because of his ongoing problems. Thurman was suspended for all of last season after skipping a drug test and later being arrested for drunken driving. Thurman will be allowed to ask for reinstatement again following the season. This decision leaves the Bengals with two suspended players as they open training camp. Receiver Chris Henry also will miss the first eight games for repeatedly violating the league’s conduct policy. The Bengals have been the NFL’s problem child franchise for misconduct, with 10 players arrested over a 14-month span.

Commish says “no camp” for Pacman – “Hang’em High” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also on Thursday denied Titans cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, who has had a well documented history of misconduct, request to join his teammates in training camp despite his season long suspension for misconduct. I believe that the Commish was well within his rights, because s ince Jones’ original suspension was handed down in April, he has still been involved with the authorities. He has been arrested a total of six times since being drafted including recently being charged with two counts of felony coercion stemming from a Las Vegas strip club fight on NBA All-Star weekend, which left a man paralyzed. The Las Vegas case is one of three still pending on Jones, including charges in Georgia and Tennessee. In talking about the Commission’s decision Titans coach Jeff Fisher seemed relieved and said, “We’ve moved on. We’re looking forward to filling the holes. We feel like we’ve done so with the roster. Now we need to do so with production on the field.” Look for the Titans to leave Jones on their roster and try to recoup the 2007 portion of Pacman’s signing bonus (approximately $1.9 million) in signing bonus. Jones and his Agent Mike Huyghue are still holding out hope that the commissioner will shorten his suspension and reinstate him after 10 games, but I believe that is highly unlikely given the litany of charges Jones is facing.

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