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Former coach Reeves offers support to Vick

ATLANTA (AP) - Former Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves told Michael Vick several weeks ago he would help the troubled quarterback in any possible way.

That offer still stands, even though Vick is now under federal indictment for hosting dogfights and brutally killing pit bulls.

"Sure, I'd do anything I could to help Mike," Reeves said Friday. "I think he's basically a good person. Unfortunately it just seems like he's made some bad choices over the years with the company he keeps."

ESPN reported Friday that the Falcons, the NFL and the NFL Players Association would urge Vick to accept a one-year suspension. NFL senior vice president Joe Browne and NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw disputed the report.

"We don't know anything about a leave of absence," Browne said.

Added Upshaw, "I haven't told Michael Vick to do anything."

Vick's problems aren't just about football. Public outrage ensued after he and three others were charged with competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting, and conducting the enterprise across state lines.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke Friday with members of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals while approximately 50 activists with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protested outside his office in New York.

Nike announced this week that it would suspend release of Vick's latest signature shoe, prompting the National Humane Society to demand that the shoe and apparel company pull all Vick-endorsed products from stores.

The indictment and ensuing uproar has "shocked and saddened" Reeves, who initially called Vick earlier this summer to invite him to play in a charity golf tournament. But the former coach also wanted Vick, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, to know that many people could help him clear up his image.

"Like most everybody else, I'd heard a lot of the things that could've happened in his life over the last year or so," Reeves said. "I was shocked and saddened to hear about the dogfighting. Unfortunately, when you look at it, it seems like he's had the same circle of friends he had as a kid."

Vick hardly helped himself or the Falcons when he gestured obscenely to fans at the Georgia Dome following a lopsided loss to New Orleans last year. He promised the next day that he would never embarrass Atlanta fans again.

"I don't know where it came from," Vick said last Nov. 27, "but the people who know me know that's not me and that's not my character."

Vick was a 20-year-old Virginia Tech sophomore six years ago when Reeves drafted him No. 1 overall in the NFL.

During his three seasons with Vick, Reeves considered him as a person who earned respect in the locker room but usually kept to himself once he left the team's complex.

"Maybe that's because he kept hanging out with a few guys he grew up with instead of making more friends on the team," Reeves said. "During the first two years, Mike prepared as hard as anybody. He never left anything on the field, and he had the kind of speed most people never saw at his position."

After Vick made two starts in eight games as a rookie behind Chris Chandler, the Falcons named him their starter in 2002. He led them to the playoffs and a stunning wildcard win at Green Bay.

Team owner Arthur Blank fired Reeves after Vick broke his ankle the following preseason and missed 12 starts. Atlanta went 3-1 when Vick returned, but his slow recovery all but ruined a season that finished 5-11.

Neither Vick nor his legal representatives has spoken publicly since the indictment was released.

The quarterback and his four associates will enter pleas Thursday at the U.S. District Court in Richmond, Va. The Falcons begin training camp the same day, but football seems the least of Vick's worries.

If convicted of both felony charges, the four face up to six years in prison, fines of up to $350,000 and restitution.

"When look at the big picture, you're talking about a quarterback who's had all the ability in the world, a guy who could've accomplished great things," Reeves said. "Maybe he still can, but it seems like he's made it awfully tough on himself."

AP Football Writer Dave Goldberg contributed to this report

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