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Michael Vick due in court on July 26 on dogfighting charges

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Atlanta Falcons' first training camp under their new coach will begin without Michael Vick.

Vick will be in a federal courtroom on July 26 in Virginia being arraigned on charges he sponsored a gruesome dogfighting operation as first-year coach Bobby Petrino and the Falcons begin preparing for the season.

Vick and three co-defendants will be asked to enter pleas to the felony charges, and a date for the federal trial likely will be set during the arraignment. After that, Vick will probably be free to rejoin the Falcons as he awaits his day in court.

And the league, it seems, is inclined to let him play.

After consulting with the Falcons, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and top league officials agreed Wednesday to let Vick play as the legal process determines the facts.

A person with knowledge of the meeting, who requested anonymity so the case would not be influenced, said the NFL would stick to that position for the foreseeable future, despite its new personal conduct policy.

In April, Goodell suspended Tennessee's Adam "Pacman" Jones for the 2007 season even though Jones had not been convicted of a crime. He did, however, have 10 encounters with police and five arrests since he was drafted in 2005.

In Vick's case, the NFL players' union took the same stance as the league.

"It's unfortunate that Michael Vick is in this position, as these allegations are extremely disturbing and offensive," the union said in a statement. "This case is now in the hands of the judicial system, and we have to allow the legal process to run its course. However, we recognize Michael still has the right to prove his innocence. Hopefully, these allegations are untrue and Michael will be able to continue his NFL career."

Vick and three associates must appear in Richmond July 26 for bond hearings and arraignments on charges contained in a detailed, 18-page indictment handed up Tuesday.

The four are accused of competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting, and conducting the enterprise across state lines.

The operation was named "Bad Newz Kennels," according to the indictment, and the dogs were housed, trained and fought at a property owned by Vick in Surry County, Va.

Conviction carries up to six years in prison, fines of $350,000 and restitution.

Among the grisly findings: Losing dogs either died in the pit or were electrocuted, drowned, hanged or shot. The indictment said purses climbed as high as $20,000 for fights.

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