Commissioner sidelines Vick

Associated Press
Demonstrators at Falcons headquarters, including Jean Pritchett, of Flowery Branch, Ga., called for the suspension of quarterback Michael Vick after his indictment on dogfighting charges last week.

NEW YORK - Michael Vick was ordered by commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday to stay away from the Atlanta Falcons' training camp until the league reviews the dogfighting charges against him.

"While it is for the criminal justice system to determine your guilt or innocence, it is my responsibility as commissioner of the National Football League to determine whether your conduct, even if not criminal, nonetheless violated league policies, including the Personal Conduct Policy," Goodell said in a letter to the quarterback.

The NFL said Vick would still get his preseason pay and Goodell told the Falcons to withhold any disciplinary action of their own until the league's review was completed.

Goodell told Vick the league would complete its review as quickly as possible and that he expected full cooperation.

The Falcons open camp on Thursday, the same day Vick is scheduled to be arraigned in Richmond, Va., on charges of sponsoring a dogfighting operation.

Vick, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft, last season became the first quarterback ever to rush for more than 1,000 yards.

After his indictment last week, the NFL's position was that it would monitor developments and allow the legal process to "determine the facts."

Since then, pressure has been mounting on the league and the Falcons, particularly from animal-rights groups.

PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - demonstrated at the Falcons' headquarters in Flowery Branch, Ga., on Monday calling for the Vick's suspension and did the same outside NFL offices in New York last week. About four dozen people took part in the protest. They held signs reading "Sack Vick!", "Kick Vick," and "Tackle Cruelty." Many brought their dogs.

The protesters plan to demonstrate a few hours each day ahead of training camp.

"The Falcons can get rid of us right away if they suspend Michael Vick. And we hope they choose to do that," said Dan Shannon, assistant director of campaigns for PETA.

At the same time, Goodell was meeting with officials from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The league and the ASPCA are working on a program to educate players about the proper treatment of animals.

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