Falcons Not Releasing Vick At This Point
The Atlanta Falcons aren't releasing quarterback Michael Vick.
At least not yet.
In a news conference today in Atlanta that began less than an hour after Vick stood at a podium at a Richmond hotel and delivered a public apology for his guilty plea in a federal dogfighting case, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the team isn't severing its ties with Vick at this point.
"It's not as simple as standing here today and telling you we're terminating Michael's rights," Blank said. "We simply cannot do that. It's not in our fans' or our franchise's longterm best interests. It would be a short-term fix at the expense of our longterm success. We're going to examine and pursue every one of the issues we faced to protect our ability to build and field a competitive team in future years."
One reason that the Falcons are not immediately releasing Vick is that they must keep him on the roster to try to force him to return a portion of the $37 million in bonuses in his 10-year, $130 million contract. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported over the weekend that the Falcons will seek reimbursement of $22 million. But a source familiar with the case said today that the NFL Players Association will contend that the club is entitled to no more than $6 million.
Falcons President Rich McKay said at today's news conference: "With respect to pursuing his bonus money, we intend to do that. We sent out this morning a demand letter with respect to that. We will pursue it aggressively. Any dollar that we would recoup from that bonus money would immediately the next season be a salary cap credit. So it affects our team and our ability to field that team directly. It's obviously important to us. We don't do this in some way that is spiteful at all. We do this in a way that we think is in the best interests of our football team, our franchise, our fans. That process is now under way."
McKay declined to say how much money the Falcons are seeking.
"We've got Michael's football status and we've got, 'How much are you going to recover?' " he said. "... With respect to that question, 'Is Michael ever going to be a Falcon again? Is Michael ever going to run out of the tunnel again?' The answer to those questions will all be the same from us today, which is we cannot and will not go further in discussing that matter than Arthur's opening remarks because there are a lot of intertwined personnel, financial and legal issues that are captured within that issue and accordingly, we won't go further. With respect to how much, again I say to you that that's something that we'll pursue between Michael's lawyers and our lawyers. It's something we'll try to do quickly. It's something that, again, we won't sit there and argue about what the amount might be. I do now, as I say, tell you that any dollar we were to recover would affect us directly on our salary cap, so it's obviously an important matter to us because Michael does have an effect on our salary cap going downstream."
Blank said he accepted Vick's apology.
"We don't know what the future holds for Michael," Blank said. "Having said that, I do believe in redemption. After Michael pays his debt to society and when he does the proper self-reflection, which I thought began this morning publicly in his press conference with some very sincere and, I thought, heart-felt statements by him, maybe he'll have an opportunity to play again in the National Football League."
By Mark Maske |
August 27, 2007; 2:00 PM ET
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