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WWBPD?

July 21st, 2007 Comments off

In this equation about what to do with Michael Vick, an important name that is only occasionally being mentioned in the conversation is Bobby Petrino.

So I pose the question: What Would Bobby Petrino Do?

Or better put, what does he want to do?

If I had to guess, Petrino wants the least amount of distraction so that he and the 52 other players under his command can go out and do their best to win football games. Now does that require the presence of Michael Vick. It would seem that the answer is no.

It was rumored that when the Falcons were wooing Mr. Petrino to be the next head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, they told him that they were not necessarily married to Michael Vick.

Well it seems that in the Bobby Petrino Era, the new couple did not even make it out of the church before the marriage fell apart.

I just wonder how much input Petrino will have on Blank’s decision. I’ve never believed despite the public comments that Bobby Petrino had total faith in Michael Vick. It was just a fact of the salary cap, that Michael Vick was going to be an Atlanta Falcon through the 2007 season. Nothing anybody said or did could really change that.

I believe even without this dogfighting stuff, Michael Vick was already on the bubble in Atlanta. He basically would have been given two years to excel in Petrino’s offense, and by the end of 2008 if he had not shown significant improvement as a passer, he would have been replaced.

Now it seems the bubble has burst. It’s not difficult to imagine that sometime within the past 72 hours, Petrino has told Arthur Blank that he wanted Vick gone. But I can also imagine Petrino saying relatively little as well. He’s been keeping pretty low key about all of this, and that might mean he’s doing his best to keep his hands clean. After all, as I said before, Arthur Blank is not in an enviable position. Petrino could take the approach that he’s only here to win football games, and whether that is with Michael Vick or without him is more up to his boss than he himself.

If you think about it, it’s really not a bad position to be in. If Blank allows Vick to play, and the Falcons still manage to win, then Petrino gets credit for keeping the ship right amidst all this turmoil. If the team struggles, then he has a handy excuse. If Vick doesn’t play, then he gets even more credit if the Falcons do well, and an even better excuse if they lose.

Now that’s not to say that Petrino is sitting pretty, but his legacy in Atlanta won’t be tarnished. In that regards, he’s in a better position than most first-year NFL coaches.

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Blank’s only recourse

July 21st, 2007 Comments off

Okay, I’ve had a few days to sit back and think about this issue. I consider myself a pragmatic thinker, so therefore I was in no rush to make a judgment on this issue. It’s been able to sink in, but it’s still probably a bit early. The Falcons kick off training camp next week, and that’s when it’s all going to come to a head.

I fully expect that the Falcons training camp will be picketed unless the Falcons decide to suspend or release Michael Vick between now and Thursday. It’s a shame really, that arguably the most notable thing that has happened to this franchise is this.

Personally, I believe that Arthur Blank should ask Michael Vick to take a voluntary leave of absence. That would be the best thing for the Falcons, the NFL, and probably for Michael Vick. It seems based on the schedule at AtlantaFalcons.com, training camp runs through August 14, in which practices are open to the public. It’s in the best interests of all parties involved that Vick makes himself scarce at least until then.

If Vick was to join the team in mid-August, perhaps he’d be ready to play in the final preseason game against the Ravens, and then a few weeks into the season perhaps be able to suit up for the team and continue to play until legal events prevented him. I’m hopeful his lawyers will be able to delay the trial until January, and therefore Michael Vick could reasonably play most of the season with the Falcons.

Now, I know some are reading this, and hope that I’m kidding. They don’t want to see Michael Vick play this year. And I understand those sentiments, but I just don’t share them. Not over some great amount of support I have for Michael Vick. Anybody who has read many of these blogs going back to January will know that I have no love for Michael Vick. But because I believe that you can distinguish what someone does personally and professionally. A good example in my eyes is Mel Gibson. I believe Mr. Gibson to be an anti-Semite, something I deplore in people. But that doesn’t prevent me from believing that Mr. Gibson is a good actor and filmmaker, and doesn’t stop me from enjoying or viewing his films. Another example, is if the best car mechanic in town is a convicted felon for a despicable crime, does that change the notion that he can fix your car better than anybody else? I don’t believe so.

In a perfect world, our personal and professional lives shouldn’t intermingle. Of course we live in about an imperfect world as they come, but that doesn’t stop me from upholding that belief.

Football is what matters to me. And because of that, I want to see Michael Vick out on the field this year, because I believe he makes our football team a lot better. Does that mean I think Michael Vick is an outstanding quarterback? No, but he’s a better one than Joey Harrington or D.J. Shockley.

But I completely respect the notion that perhaps the majority of people have a strong opposing belief on that matter. If so, then so be it. If you think there isn’t a circle of Hell low enough for Michael Vick, then so be it. I don’t expect to sway your opinion (nor am I attempting to).

Now, going back, if Vick is unwilling to accept this voluntary leave of absence, then I believe Arthur Blank has no recourse but to suspend him for four games. Why that amount? Because it’s basically written in the CBA that conduct detrimental to the team allows for a team-imposed suspension of up to four games. Besides releasing him, Blank has no other disciplinary recourse.

In my eyes, either option that the Falcons take basically result in the same thing. Basically it means that Michael Vick will miss the first few games of the season.

I don’t envy Blank’s position. He is weighing several options right now, and has to factor in a lot of things before coming to that decision. I believe we’ll have a decision before next Wednesday (when players report for camp), but I don’t think it’s necessary for him to make a quick judgment despite public and media pushing for it.

He has to weigh football vs. public relations vs. the fan base. In terms of football, the decision would probably be to do nothing. Let Michael Vick play in both camp and during the regular season. For public relations, the best thing for him to do is to severe all ties with the man, by releasing him yesterday. For the fan base, it’s probably somewhere in the middle. He has to show that he’s not going to let it slide, but he can’t exactly “pack in” the season by dumping Vick. That is why ultimately I expect Blank to make a decision along those things.

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Blank issues letter to fans

July 20th, 2007 1 comment

In their second overall, yet arguably first official statement following the indictment of Michael Vick, Falcons owner Arthur Blank issued a letter to the fan base on Thursday evening:

A Message to our Fans:

We know you’re anxious to her more from us regarding the indictment of Michael Vick and its implications to the Falcons. Please be assured that we are working diligently on exploring our options and getting the right people involved in this situation.

This is an emotionally charged and complicated matter. There are a wide range of interests and legal issues that need to be carefully considered as we move ahead, including our need to respect the due process that Michael is entitled to. Also, this situation affects everyone — our club, our players and associates, our sponsors, our fans and the Atlanta community among them — so we must consider all of our customers in making any decisions.

Given the differing perspctives and strong feelings around this issue, we probably won’t make everyone happy, but we are committed to doing the right thing. As the owner of this club that’s, ultimately, my responsibility.

In the meantime, know that I’m sadden and distressed about this — not for myself, but for our fans and community who have been so loyal to us. We will do our very best to continue to earn your support.

Arthur M. Blank
Owner & CEO

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No Vick suspension forthcoming

July 19th, 2007 Comments off

Adam Schefter of NFL.com reports that the league will exercise patience when it comes to dealing with any punishment on Michael Vick, and has no immediate plans to suspend Vick.

Schefter reports that the league would like to gather more information, particularly about the strength of evidence against Vick and a timetable of the case, before making any real decisions about a potential suspension. Schefter compares the incident to Duke lacrosse rape case, in which Duke University immediately made a decision by cancelling the lacrosse season. Eventually, all charges against the Duke players were dropped.

Any upcoming disciplinary action will likely be meted out by Falcons owner Arthur Blank instead of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Schefter reports that it is possible the Falcons give Vick a leave of absence, allowing him to concentrate on legal matters instead of football. This action was originally suggested by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday. This would keep Vick out of training camp where a probable media circus would occur and create far less of a distraction to the rest of the team.

Schefter also reports that it will be difficult for the Falcons to recoup the $37 million in bonus money paid to Vick, because most of it was roster bonuses instead of strictly signing bonuses.

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Vick to face local charges

July 19th, 2007 Comments off

Tim McGlone of the Virginian-Pilot reports that it is “more than likely” that Vick will also face local prosecution from Surry County officials in tandem with his federal conspiracy charges.

Originally, when federal officials “intervened” per Surry County Commonwealth’s Attorney Gerald Poindexter in early June, it was believed that any case local officials may have had against Vick was unlikely to come to fruition.

Poindexter indicates that any local case will focus on crimes committed in Surry County, instead of the interstate commerce which is where a significant amount of the federal case lies.

There has been much controversy during the local investigation, most of centering around race. Poindexter, who is black, has been criticized for leading a weak and intentionally stalled investigation due the fact that Vick is a high-profile black celebrity. Poindexter has denied these claims, and recently has indicated the speed at which their investigation has progressed has been hindered because local officials are waiting for federal officials to share crucial information.

Evidence is expected to go before a grand jury in Surry County on September 25. Another grand jury is set to convene at the end of this month, but it is considered doubtful that they will hear evidence in the Vick case then.

Vick already faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 on federal conspiracy charges. Cruelty to animals and participating in dogfight are both felonies in the state of Virginia.

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Vick to be arraigned at start of camp

July 18th, 2007 2 comments

Per an AJC report, Michael Vick is set to be arraigned at 4 pm in a federal court in Richmond, Virginia on July 26, the same day that practices for training camp kick off for the Falcons. The first Falcons practice is scheduled for 3:00 in the afternoon, with Vick set to appear for a bond hearing at 3:30. It seems as a result, that it is nearly impossible that Vick will report on time to training camp.

The Falcons already issued a preliminary statement Tuesday evening, but may release a second statement later today.

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Falcons sign 3 draft picks

July 18th, 2007 Comments off

The Falcons signed three of their eight remaining draft picks today: WR Laurent Robinson, TE Martrez Milner, and OL Doug Datish. All three players received four-year contracts. Terms of their contracts were undisclosed, although based on previous contracts given to their 2007 draft class, all three will receive minimum base salaries through the next four seasons.

Robinson was selected in the third round out of Illinois State. He is expected to compete for a reserve role with the Falcons, especially now that Brian Finneran has been ruled out for the entire year.

Milner was the second fourth round pick selected by the Falcons out of Georgia. He will be competing for the backup spot behind starter Alge Crumpler along with Dwayne Blakley and Daniel Fells.

Datish was the third of the team’s four sixth round draft choices out of Ohio State. He’s expected to fill the reserve role behind Todd McClure at center.

Previously, fourth round pick Stephen Nicholas, sixth rounder Daren Stone, and running back Jason Snelling signed four-year deals.

Falcons begin training camp practices on July 26, 2007.

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Vick may be suspended

July 18th, 2007 Comments off

Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reports that Vick is expected to be suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the league’s new player conduct policy due to his federal indictment.

Cole reports that Vick’s suspension will likely be as a result of lying to the commissioner in April when the two met face-to-face during the first day of the NFL Draft, only days after the allegations of dogfighting first broke. Vick denied having any involvement and knowledge about the issue to Goodell.

The NFL released a statement yesterday when news broke of the indictment:

We are disappointed that Michael Vick has put himself in a position where a federal grand jury has returned an indictment against him. We will continue to closely monitor developments in this case, and to cooperate with law enforcement authorities. The activities alleged are cruel, degrading and illegal. Michael Vick’s guilt has not yet been proven, and we believe that all concerned should allow the legal process to determine the facts. The matter will be reviewed under the League’s Personal Conduct Policy.

The league’s statement implies that the commissioner will give Vick due process before meting out any punishment. Various sources have also reported that the goal of the new stricter player conduct policy is to deal with repeat offenders. All players that have suspended up to now, including Pacman Jones, Chris Henry, Tank Johnson, Jared Allen, among others have had more than one offense. Despite some precarious incidents, Vick has had no previous formal legal issues to qualify him as a repeat offender.

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Vick indicted

July 17th, 2007 Comments off

An 18-page document details the federal indictment of Falcons quarterback Michael Vick by Grand Jury on charges of conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce to aid in unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture.

Vick is named along with three others: Purnell Peace, Quanis Phillips, and Tony Taylor for purchasing and developing property to serve as the main staging area for housing and training pit bulls for dogfights and for also hosting such fights. This property of course is the 1915 Moonlight Road address in Smithfield, VA that has been searched by both local and federal authorities beginning on April 25, 2007.

According to the documents, Vick purchased this property in late June 2001 for $34,000, after the four collectively decided early that year to start this venture. Vick was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL Draft in April of 2001. Between 2002 and 2005, the group under the name of “Bad Newz Kennels” developed the property at Moonlight Road, by building a house, fence, sheds, and kennels for housing and training the dogs.

The documents also detail several incidents where dogs were executed, most of which as result of faring poorly in” testing” exercises. As recently as April of this past year, Peace, Phillips, and Vick are named in executing 8 dogs by various methods including hanging, drowning, and slamming one dog’s body into the ground. It is the only time in which Vick is directly named in the execution of any dogs. Although in March 2003, after consulting with Vick, Peace electrocuted a dog. According to the documents, Peace also executed 3 other dogs by shooting, with Phillips doing the same for one dog, and Taylor killing two dogs by shooting and electrocution.

Fights were detailed as well in the documents, beginning in 2002 and running through 2005, in which purses ranged from $1,000 up to $26,000 for the sponsors of the victorious dog.

A PDF version of the file is viewable and downloadable via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s website.

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Breaking down the Texans

July 11th, 2007 1 comment

In Week 4, our second home game, we will host the Houston Texans in a game that I’m sure will be hyped by the media about Matt Schaub’s return to Atlanta.

Offense: The key to the Texans offense is their quarterback play. Schaub is untested, but by the fourth week of the season he should be relatively comfortable running the team. The Texans sole weapon is Andre Johnson, who is emerging as one of the league’s best receivers. Their other receiver Kevin Walter is essentially a poor man’s Brian Finneran. Ahman Green is a good runner, but no longer a threat to take the ball the distance. But he’s still a competent runner that is efficient, if not dangerous. Owen Daniels is an underrated pass catcher. He’s not the biggest or fastest guy around, but is solid as they come. But the weakness of the Texans offense is still their offensive line, assuming Schaub is up to par. They were better last year than they’ve been in past years, but they are still flawed at the left tackle position.

Defense: They have a very young defense and only a few playmakers. Okoye and Mario Williams could help change that. Williams should be better after a lackluster rookie year, but Okoye is a defensive tackle, and very few of them have real impact years right off the bat. Ryans is the only notable linebacker, as the rest is just below average to average starters. Robinson is the only one worth noting in the secondary. But besides those playmakers, the rest of the defense is lackluster, but it’s not incompetent. The Texans had one of the worst pass rushes in the league last year, and if Williams and Okoye can improve them in that area significantly, the rest of the defense will fall into place.

Off-season: Rather than making a big splash in the off-season via free agency, the Texans decided to hold back. They added Schaub and Green, their sole big splashes. Both should be upgrades over their predecessors, but how much remains to be seen.

Draft: Although Okoye should be a solid building block for the future, whether or not he really does much this year remains to be seen. Besides him, none of their other draft picks are notable except Fred Bennett and perhaps Jacoby Jones, everybody’s favorite WR sleeper. If Jones is the next Marques Colston, then that will be a huge boon, but since that’s doubtful, it’s more than likely they won’t get a ton of production from this group until two, three, or four years down the road.

Overall: The Texans are slightly improved from a year ago, and a lot of their success rests on Schaub’s shoulders. But still they lack a lot of talent to get over the hump. The newness of Schaub and an improved pass rush should make them more competitive, but how many more wins will it net them? Second place in the AFC South is not crazy, but considering that’s probably the weakest AFC division, it’s unlikely that is going to earn a wildcard spot. One thing is for sure, under Schaub they’ll have to be able to score 28 or more points in order to win a lot more games. That’s a mark they never achieved last season.

How They Match Up: On Hall’s best days, he could be a major thorn in the side of Johnson. But if we’re judging by how often Hall shows up vs. Johnson’s consistency, then the bet should be on Johnson to outclass him. The Texans have a zone-blocking offensive line, which gave our defense more troubles last year. But unlike many of the zone blocking teams we faced last year (Cowboys, Redskins, Saints), the Texans offensive line is far from quality. Whomever lines up at left tackle for Houston could have real problems with a healthy John Abraham, whether it’s Spencer or Ephraim Salaam. Mario Williams is a big physical pass rusher that could cause troubles for Gandy as well. A strong physical running game right up the gut could really hurt the Texans, who really don’t have the hogs there to really stuff the run. But Dunn and Norwood aren’t known for their abilities to pound it up the gut, so any advantage the Falcons could reap there might be negated.

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