LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – The National Football League hired an ind…

LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – The National Football League hired an independent lawyer to investigate dog-fighting charges against Michael Vick as the Atlanta Falcons said they were ready to suspend their Pro Bowl quarterback before the league stepped in, Bloombergs report.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters in Washington that the league hired an outside attorney to look into the charges that Vick operated an interstate dog-fighting operation from a home he owned in Virginia. The findings might help the league decide how to proceed with Vick before the trial gets under way.

“We have outside counsel that will be focused on this,” Goodell said after a meeting at the NFL Players Association. “We have a security team and they’ll be in touch with all the appropriate parties.”

In Atlanta, Falcons owner Arthur Blank said at a news conference that the team considered suspending Vick before Goodell stepped in last night and ordered the player not to take part in training camp, which begins in two days. Blank also said that the Falcons decided against placing Vick on paid leave or releasing him while he awaits trial.

“The commissioner asked us not to take any action until he completed his review of the situation, and we agreed to his request,” Blank said. “The notion that anyone would be involved in dog-fighting is incomprehensible to me. Our role is to deal with the facts and do what is best for all parties affected by this.”

Vick is scheduled for a bond hearing and arraignment on July 26, the same day as the Falcons’ first practice. He has started 67 games since the team selected him as the No. 1 pick in the 2001 NFL draft.

Blank said he planned to suspend Vick for four games, the most a team is allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, before Goodell announced that he would bar Vick from camp.

“We feel comfortable with Michael not being in training camp right now,” he said. “But we will decide in the future if Michael will play for us again.”

Goodell called dog-fighting “despicable” and said “the NFL is very disappointed that Michael put himself in this position.”

According to the indictment returned July 17, “Bad Newz Kennels” used the Smithfield property purchased by Vick in 2001 to house and train pit bulls used in dog fights.

The operation started about two months after Vick signed a six-year, $62 million contract with the Falcons in May 2001, the indictment said.

Participants established purses as high as $26,000 for the fights, which lasted until the death or surrender of the losing dog. The indictment said losing dogs were sometimes killed by drowning, hanging, gunshot or electrocution.

Vick faces as much as five years in prison and fines of as much as $250,000 for the interstate-commerce part of the charge, and one year in prison and a $100,000 fine on the dog-fighting charge, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Vick found success as quarterback in the NFL with a style based on running and versatility. He set rushing records in his first few seasons, reached the Pro Bowl three times and last year became the first quarterback to run for more than 1,000 yards in a season. Nike Inc. produced a line of shoes named after him.

Vick’s last two years also have been marked by trouble.

He made an obscene gesture at Atlanta fans after a home loss to the New Orleans Saints last season, and police in Florida investigated him in January after Miami International Airport authorities found a hidden compartment in a water bottle he left at security that they said smelled like marijuana. The case was dropped when lab tests failed to find any sign of drugs.

Vick’s indictment comes on the heels of a push by Goodell to crack down on players misbehaving off the field.

“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 wrote to Vick as quoted in the league statement released yesterday.

In April, Goodell revised the league’s personal-conduct policy and suspended Tennessee Titans cornerback Pacman Jones for a season after five arrests and no convictions, and banned Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry for half the season after a series of arrests on charges including drunk driving and providing alcohol to minors.

Blank said the Vick described in the federal indictment “is not the player or person that I knew in the last six years.”

“These charges are extremely serious,” Blank said. “These are not about him playing football in 2007. This is about him having a life. He needs to focus on putting his life together. It’s very difficult for him to do that and be focused on football at the same time.”

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