Falcons owner applauds NFL's suspension of Vick

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank wanted to suspend Michael Vick last month, even as his quarterback declared his innocence on dogfighting charges.

On Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell took care of that, indefinitely suspending the Falcons' biggest star.

Blank applauded Goodell's decision, which came just hours after Vick acknowledged in court papers that he bankrolled gambling on dogfighting and helped kill some dogs. The plea agreement will be formally entered in U.S. District Court on Monday in Richmond, Va.

"His admissions describe actions that are incomprehensible and unacceptable for a member of the National Football League and the Atlanta Falcons," Blank said in a statement released by the team.

He stressed Goodell is making a strong statement that "conduct which tarnishes the good reputation of the NFL will not be tolerated."

Falcons president and general manager Rich McKay met Friday afternoon with Goodell, who said he would review Vick's suspension after all the legal proceedings.

"We respect and support the commissioner's decision," Blank said.

At the start of training camp, Goodell restrained Blank from suspending Vick for four games, but the commissioner said Friday the team is free to act.

"I have advised the Falcons that, with my decision today, they are no longer prohibited from acting and are now free to assert any claims or remedies available to them under the Collective Bargaining Agreement or your NFL Player Contract," Goodell said.

With that go-ahead, the Falcons now could attempt to recover $22 million of Vick's signing bonus from the 10-year, $130 million contract he signed in 2004.

Vick's agent, Joel Segal, did not return a phone message Friday.

Before the NFL's announcement, Falcons players welcomed the news that Vick had filed his plea agreement.

"I'm just glad that Mike is finally just dealing with it and doing what he had to do and understands the mistake he made," receiver Joe Horn said. "Hopefully he can go on with his life and he can come back and definitely play football."

Joey Harrington, the team's new starting quarterback, said the plea agreement won't interfere with plans for his first home game with the Falcons. The Falcons, who played their first two preseason games on the road, will face Cincinnati in the Georgia Dome on Monday night.

"Our stance hasn't changed," Harrington said. "I think the organization did a good job of addressing things right away. We all wish Mike well as a family member and a teammate, but we have things we want to take care of this season."

Veteran running back Warrick Dunn said the latest developments would not disturb the team's preparations.

"I don't think anyone is really concerned about it," Dunn said. "There will be some reports and people will talk about it, but I think everyone here is focused on football. We can't control anything that happens that's not here."

Added Horn: "We're keeping the focus. We have a job to do. We're professionals. We have a job to do for our families, first of all, and for the organization. We owe it to our families, ourselves and to this owner to win football games, and that's what we'll do."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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