ESPN: NFL, NFLPA, and Vick confidants urging him to take paid leave of absence

Discussion in 'NFL Zone' started by WoodysGirl, Jul 20, 2007.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl U.N.I.T.Y Staff Member

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    NFL, Falcons could ask Vick to focus energies in court
    By Len Pasquarelli and Chris Mortensen

    Updated: July 20, 2007, 12:25 PM ET

    ATLANTA -- In what has quickly evolved into a collaborative effort that includes the input of officials from the NFL, the NFL Players Association and the Atlanta Falcons, embattled quarterback Michael Vick could be urged to take a voluntary leave of absence to focus his energy on the legal challenges from a federal dogfighting indictment confronting him, sources said Thursday and Friday.

    There are, however, two critical components that must be resolved: Falcons owner Arthur Blank must be on board with a plan that has generated considerable discussion at the league level the past two days. And Vick, who might be reluctant to accept even a paid hiatus from the game, might have to be convinced that the leave could be his best option right now.

    Blank and the Falcons might also be considering other options.

    Under the leave-of-absence scenario, and given the projected timeline of any trial that could ensue from the federal indictments brought against the quarterback Tuesday, all parties would enter into the agreement, if it is consummated, with the expectation that Vick would probably miss the entire 2007 season.

    While the concept of a leave has been broached conceptually to associates and advisors of Vick, it has not yet been formally presented to the Falcons star. Vick, 27, could be briefed about the possibility of a paid leave of absence, however, as early as Friday. He would likely be granted time to consider the suggestion, which would almost certainly have to be communicated by Blank, with a decision not coming until early next week.

    It has become clear, as high-level discussions have progressed, that all the parties involved in the talks are desperately seeking a resolution to a potential public relations disaster before the Falcons begin training camp next Thursday afternoon. A league source acknowledged Thursday that "something one way or the other is going to have to happen ... by the start of training camp."

    As incentive for Vick to consider a leave, the union is hopeful that Blank will offer to guarantee the player's full $6 million base salary for 2007. That could be a sticking point in the negotiations. No one will try to bully Vick into accepting the leave, but he might be reminded that while the league and Falcons are inclined for now to allow due process to play out in the courts, that stance is not an unalterable one, and unfolding events could possibly change the approach of Blank and of commissioner Roger Goodell.

    Multiple sources at various levels of the ongoing discussions acknowledged that a consensus was beginning to galvanize that nobody, including Vick, will benefit by the quarterback's playing the 2007 season under a lingering cloud of suspicion and the ponderous legal burden of the federal indictment. In the indictment, Vick is alleged to have conspired in an illegal dogfighting venture conducted on property he owns in Surry County, Va.

    Intensive talks continued Thursday with Goodell, Blank, Falcons team president and general manager Rich McKay and NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw. They discussed the various options available to them, and those discussions are expected to continue Friday.

    If convicted on all counts, Vick could face a prison sentence of six years.

    Neither Vick nor his attorney or agent could be reached for comment Thursday night. Blank also was unavailable for comment, and a Falcons spokesman referred to the owner's statement released earlier Thursday in which he expressed that "we are working diligently on exploring our options."

    "The commissioner is concerned about the seriousness of the charges, and he wants to make sure Vick focuses on putting up the most appropriate defense," a source said. "Vick has to be convinced that it is in his best interests to take a leave of absence ... I think it's fair to say nobody's really comfortable with him playing under these circumstances."

    Even a close Vick associate acknowledged early Friday that is the case.

    Said the associate: "There's been a lot of stuff going on the last day or so, but the one thing that keeps getting clearer and clearer is that they don't want [Vick] around. The Falcons, the league, they know it's a mess and it's only going to get uglier if camp starts and he's on the field. If he's not [present for camp], at least there's a little bit of 'out of sight, out of mind,' you know? It removes the source of distraction. Otherwise, it's just [untenable]."

    A leave of absence would at least temporarily address several possible dilemmas for the Falcons, including how to handle Vick's contract if he does not report to training camp on time. And it would enable the franchise, even if Vick doesn't play in 2007, to retain his contractual rights. Vick is scheduled for a bond hearing and his arraignment hearing Thursday, the same day the Falcons hold their initial camp practice under first-year coach Bobby Petrino.

    Without an excused absence, Vick could technically be in default of his contract if he does not report to camp on time, perhaps providing the Falcons the right to attempt to recover bonus money already paid to him. There are default provisions, described by one source with close knowledge of Vick's contract as "very tight language," written into the lucrative 10-year extension he signed in December 2004. Vick advisors spent time Thursday discussing the potential default ramifications with NFLPA officials.

    Members of the NFL management council, the labor arm of the league, earlier this week began closely reviewing Vick's contract to see what options might be available to Blank and the Falcons if they try to recover any bonus payments.

    The 2004 extension has long been advertised as a 10-year, $130 million contract. In reality, because the final season of the contract voided as soon as Vick reached minimum playing-time thresholds, it is a nine-year deal worth about $118 million. Vick has banked more than $40 million, but $37 million of that was in bonuses -- an initial signing bonus of $7.5 million and then subsequent roster bonuses of $22.5 million and $7 million. But for salary-cap purposes, the Falcons exercised an option to convert the roster bonuses into signing bonuses.

    That might seem incidental because Vick got all the money coming to him anyway. But if the Falcons attempt at some point to force Vick into paying back part of the bonus money, how the conversions are interpreted might be a point of contention. A ruling in a grievance case involving former Denver first-round wide receiver Ashley Lelie last year made it more difficult for teams to seek repayment of option or roster bonuses.

    Atlanta officials might contend that the two most recent bonuses paid Vick, totaling $29.5 million, were converted to signing bonuses, and that they should be permitted to pursue a prorated share of that money. The Vick camp would likely counter that, while the money was paid as signing bonuses, it was actually earned as roster bonuses.

    But any contentiousness, and a possible arbitration hearing, could be avoided if Vick accepts a proposal for a leave of absence, one in which all parties agree he will miss camp.

    "It would certainly give everyone some much-needed breathing room," said one league source late Thursday night. "People could get on with their business."

    Make no mistake, for both the Falcons and the NFL, there is clearly a business component attached to the Vick case.

    The league faces a backlash, not only from animal-rights groups but from others, as well. And in the statement Blank released Thursday, he noted his responsibility to his sponsors. The team recently entered into an agreement with Russell Athletic in which the apparel maker will pay $1 million to $2 million annually to sponsor the Falcons' training camp. It could be a camp disrupted by protests if Vick attends.

    In another Vick-related matter, the quarterback's camp has begun interviewing candidates to beef up his legal defense team in the event he goes to trial. Vick's longtime personal attorney, Lawrence Woodward, is expected to remain part of the defense team, but advisors have urged that the Falcons star consider adding counsel with experience in the federal courts.

    The Vick camp has solicited recommendations and is believed to have interviewed at least one prominent defender from the prestigious Washington, D.C., firm of Wilmer Hale.

    Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for Television reporter Chris Mortensen covers the NFL for ESPN.
  2. Hostile

    Hostile The Duke

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    If anyone is shocked by this they need to set their alarm clock earlier and go to bed earlier so that they can wake up. If he refuses to take this leave of absence (foolish decision IMO) look for the pressure on the entire Falcons organization to hit :eek: levels.
  3. dargonking999

    dargonking999 DKRandom

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    Man, things are looking worse for the FF owners who have Vick

    watching the commencing of Vick being dropped in every league, 4, 3, 2, 1...
  4. burmafrd

    burmafrd Benched

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    Leave of Absence. hmmm. that would be the smart thing for Vick to do. SO he probably won't do it.
  5. dargonking999

    dargonking999 DKRandom

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    And when he does, then what?
  6. 03EBZ06

    03EBZ06 Need2Speed

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    I just don't know how Falcons and Vick can weather the media circus should Falcons decide to let him play. The distractions, negative publicity will be enormous and I can't see any team able to function under those conditions.

    Falcons will be miserable with him and they will most likely will have a terrible season without him. It's a tough decision to make but I do think for best interest of team and Vick, Blank should offer paid leave of absence to Vick and Vick accepting it.
  7. Heisenberg

    Heisenberg That gum you like.

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    They have to figure something out. Talk about all hell breaking loose if he actually DOES play. Their best bet is just like it's outlined in the article, pay him to sit. Eventually, it'll all shake out and hopefully before next season. At that point, the problem will have taken care of itself.
  8. dcfanatic

    dcfanatic Benched

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    Exactly. PETA is already protesting at the NFL offices. What do you think they are going to be doing when the Falcons open training camp next week.

    Vick is done for 2007 and maybe for a lot longer. This whole fiasco smells like a career, which was already very disappointing, gone bad in a hurry.

    He deserves it though. Even if he were to flip and become the states evidence the NFL would still suspend him and he would go from being a punk to a punk who snitched. Now that's a no win situation if I ever saw one.
  9. Stautner

    Stautner New Member

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    I agree.

    I think the Falcons themselves are much more likely to take action than the NFL.

    What I think would be best is for the Falcons to give him a paid leave of abscence, or maybe even let him keep practicing with the team but see no game action until things are cleared up or more information is available.

    Vick won't just volunteer for a leave of absence without assurances he will get paid.
  10. SkinsandTerps

    SkinsandTerps Redskins Forever

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    Maybe I should order myself a Falcon's "Ookie" Jersey.
  11. Hostile

    Hostile The Duke

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    Ookie Mexico?
  12. Sarge

    Sarge Red, White and brew... Staff Member

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    If you had Vick as your QB in FF, you weren't going to do much damage to begin with.
  13. stasheroo

    stasheroo Well-Known Member

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    I'll stand by my prediction:

    Michael Vick has thrown his last pass in the NFL.

    ABQCOWBOY Moderator Staff Member

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    To me, this is all window dressing. I don't see any way Vick can play for the Falcons regardless. Because of the pace that this thing is moving, he can't participate in camp. He can't be ready for the season and he can't be counted on to be there the whole season. The coaching staff will have to play somebody else IMO. No choice in the matter. All the rest of this stuff is simply to ease the immediate pressure. Vick aint playing this year no matter what IMO.

    The one thing I was wondering yesterday was if the NFL will take action against the Falcons. It's not impossible. I don't know the extent to which the NFL can take action but teams are now held responsible for the behavior of there players according to the NFL. That was a recent move, I beleive. If it comes out that the Falcons knew anything about this, which I have to believe they did, then I wonder what can happen to them?
  15. AbeBeta

    AbeBeta Well-Known Member

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    Gee, some genius the other day suggested that this is the sort of deal the commish might be working on.
  16. SkinsandTerps

    SkinsandTerps Redskins Forever

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    Hos, It would have to be "M. Ookie", since the NFL doesn't allow Falcons "Mexico" Jerseys. :laugh2:

    ABQ, The thing is Vick is technically a first time offender. The league would set a bad precedence by taking action against the Falcons for a first time offender.
  17. 03EBZ06

    03EBZ06 Need2Speed

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    That's going to be very difficult to prove unless Vick come out and say "yeah, I told "whoever" about it", otherwise, I don't know how NFL can prove Falcons had any knowledge about Vick's involvement of dogfighting.

    Also, I truely believe other NFL players are involved. Vick attracts lot of other NFL players and it isn't too far fetch to say some of his "buddies" not only knew about it but participate in it.
  18. Stautner

    Stautner New Member

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    I think the NFL taking action against teams is directed more at a Cincinnati Benals situation where their are multiple and repeat offenses involving a number of players.

    I don't think the idea is to slap teams for a single issue.
  19. aikemirv

    aikemirv Well-Known Member

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    If I were a betting man, I would take that bet. He will take his 1 yr leave of abscence, make a plea in Federal court for no jail time and be in an Atlanta uniform next year at the latest.

    The NFL will look as the paid leave of abscence as time served for a suspension (even though he was paid) and much of this will be forgotten by next year.

    That is my prediction.

    ABQCOWBOY Moderator Staff Member

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    Grand Jury doesn't plea. If the case is as strong as it appears to be, there won't be any opportunity to plea, IMO. The Feds are going to nail him to the wall. This says nothing of the States case against him. IMO, there is no way Vick avoids time here. If he's convicted, he's going to do time and it won't be a year. It will be much longer then that if convicted.

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