Vick Finally Smells the Coffee: Falcons QB files plea agreement today (August 24th)

Well the news that Michael Vick was not going to sign his agreement and take his chances at a November 26th trial were drastically overblown (even by your truly, but sometimes sources are overzealous too). Vick finally realizing that he was facing an opponent bigger than mammoth sized Browns DT Ted Washington took his attorney’s advice and signed his plea agreement today (August 24th). The document was filed in federal court in Richmond, Virginia. The key component of the document was Vick admitting to a dogfighting charge and agreeing to being the “figurehead” of the enterprise including killing fighting dogs and gambling. However, according to the statement of facts that accompanies the plea, Vick did not place side bets and did not receive proceeds from purses from the fights.

In the plea agreement, Vick agreed to enter the plea because as it states “the defendant is in fact guilty of the charged offense” and will cooperate with the government’s investigation. He also knowingly agreed to waive his right to an appeal in exchange for concessions made by prosecutors. The plea is scheduled to be formally entered Monday in U.S. District Court in Richmond, Virginia by Vick and his attorneys. In the agreement, Vick agreed to plead guilty to the first count of the indictment against him. The charges say that Vick was part of a conspiracy to operate a dogfighting ring across state lines and they are similar to the same charges that his co-defendants Purnell Peace, Quanis Phillips, and Tony Taylor plead guilty to earlier. Vick’s legal team and the prosecutor agreed that due to aggravating circumstances from the facts of the case, including “the victimization and killing of pit bulls”, that prosecutors would go above the federal sentencing guidelines for the charge, but would recommend a sentence at the low end of the scale following that adjustment. The charges usually carry a potential sentence of up 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and up to three years’ probation, but everyone is expecting to Vick to receive a 12 to 18 month sentence. However there is a chance that any type of sentence can be changed or lengthened by Judge Hudson at the time of sentencing (later date), if he believes it is necessary.

By accepting the plea agreement including the caveat in the statement of facts that he didn’t directly gamble, Vick is trying to save his NFL career and avoid a lifetime ban from the league. But at this point he should not be worried about his playing career. The NFL already seems ready to push Vick out the door for a very long time and with special investigator Eric Holder gathering gobs of evidence to go along with Friday’s document, all signs don’t look good for the superstar quarterback to be in the NFL anytime soon. I am expecting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to take a look at all of the damming information including the plea documents and he will probably put Vick’s NFL career on ice for 2 years at the minimum. Expect after all NFL actions are completed, look for the Falcons to instantaneously release their former on the field leader ($6 Million cap hit in 2007 and $15 Million cap hit in 2008). Falcons Owner Arthur Blank, who called Vick “like a son” in the past, will let his “son” grown up and stand on his own two feet and work on his difficulties by himself. He will truly be a man without a team or league and can concentrate on his rehabilitation and possible comeback.

The big question is will Goodell issue the suspension right away letting Vick serve his suspension concurrently with his jail term or will he take out the former NFL “poster” player for even longer by having the suspension start once Vick is back in society. A couple factors may effect Goodell’s decision:

1) Is Michael Vick truly capitulant and remorseful about his role in the events that have pulled the whole league down.

2) Is Vick willing to apologize to fans, players, and especially the commissioner personally (lied to Goodell at the NFL draft in April about his involvement in the dogfighting operation)?

3) Public Sentiment – If members of the society including PETA, Animal lovers, NFL fans, NAACP, etc seem to have forgiven Vick then maybe (that is a big maybe) the “Commish” will have sympathy on him.

4) A team willing to sign Vick campaigning to sign him as a free agent. At first I thought this is not possible, but remember America loves a comeback story and if Vick is a changed man some team might give him a chance. He could also show the NFL that he has changed by playing and keeping his nose clean in the Arena Football league or in the CFL.

So the circus, that the NFL wants to go away, will still be coming to town in Richmond, VA on Monday (August 27th) after all. The events will probably have quadruple the amount of attention of Vick’s Falcons versus the Bengals at home on Monday Night football (would anyone really watch just to see Joey Harrington). Whatever the events on Monday you know I will be on top of the story. The only light at the end of the tunnel for everyone including NFL officials is once September 6th hits and the “real” games begin, Michael Vick will be on the back burner — that is until his sentencing, which is expected around November.

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