August 21, 2007
As the Falcons struggle to come to terms with what has transpired with their star quarterback they have no choice but to move on.
"He's not on the team," running back Warrick Dunn said Tuesday. "That pretty much makes him an ex-teammate."
Vick's decision Monday to plead guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges will have long-range ramifications. Instead of having one of the NFL's most dynamic players, Atlanta must turn over the quarterback position to former No. 3 overall pick Joey Harrington, a flop in Detroit and Miami.
Down the road, there will be major salary cap issues to address as the Falcons deal with the leftovers of Vick's $130 million contract.
Veterans such as Dunn, offensive tackle Wayne Gandy and linebacker Keith Brooking, all in their 30s and eager to play with a contender, suddenly find themselves on a team that everyone is picking to be one of the worst in the league.
Tight end Alge Crumpler seemed most passionate about Vick's predicament. They came into the league the same year and Crumpler
quickly emerged as Vick's favorite receiver. Now, it looks as though they'll never hook up on other passing play again.
Vick is likely to be sentenced to at least a year in prison and probably longer - after he enters his guilty plea next week. He also faces certain punishment from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell under a tougher personal conduct policy that went into effect this year. Vick is likely to miss at least two seasons before he can even think about a comeback.
"Michael is a human being," Crumpler said. "People have been trying to dehumanize him. But he's hurting. I know that. Believe me, he's hurting."
Still, there's no getting away from the lurid allegations in the indictment: dogs being electrocuted and drowned when they didn't show enough fighting spirit, some of them reportedly killed by Vick himself.
"It's disturbing, obviously," Dunn said. "That someone of his caliber would be associated with that is the troubling part."