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Vick indictment blindsided Falcons

  • Story Highlights
  • Team did not expect charges against quarterback, general manager says
  • Michael Vick to appear in court Thursday, same day training camp begins
  • Falcons had sought 4-game suspension; league told them to hold off
  • NFL is investigating, told Vick not to report for camp
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday said they did not anticipate star quarterback Michael Vick's indictment on charges related to dogfighting.

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Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the team wanted to suspend the player for four games.

"We had absolutely no idea that the indictment was coming on that day at that time," Falcons General Manager Rich McKay said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon at the team's Atlanta office.

After FBI and Virginia police investigators searched property Vick owns near Smithfield, Virginia, a federal grand jury indicted him and three associates July 17 on charges related to dogfighting.

"There was always that potential, but there was no timing to us that we knew of," McKay said.

"We had, clearly, no indications, no signs, no whispers ... of any of this kind of behavior," team owner Arthur Blank said.

"I never realized there was such a thing [as dogfighting]," McKay added. "I couldn't tell you that there was this situation where people went to watch dogfights. I guess I must be the only one in this room who didn't know that."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told Vick on Monday not to report to the Falcons' training camp until the league completes a review of the case. Goodell on Tuesday told the Falcons not to discipline Vick over the dogfighting charges until the review is completed. No time frame for the review was given.

Blank said the Falcons had been pursuing a four-game suspension, the maximum allowed under the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players union, and had gone so far as to draw up a letter to Vick.

"We needed to make some decisions before training camp opens Thursday," Blank said. Video Watch Blank discuss disciplining Michael Vick »

Falcons training camp begins Thursday, the same day Vick is to appear in court for a bond hearing and arraignment in Richmond, Virginia, where the indictment was filed.

"We don't know where things will go from here," Blank said. "... We are committed to doing the right thing, both on and off the field."

Vick and the others face federal conspiracy charges alleging they bought and sponsored dogs in a fighting venture and traveled across state lines to participate in illegal activity, including gambling.

"We've been very firm with Michael as to what we expect of him both as a football player and as a leader," Blank said.

Vick has yet to comment publicly on the charges, which prosecutors say could lead to a maximum six-year prison sentence and fines of $350,000.

According to the indictment, Vick and his associates obtained the Virginia property for the purpose of staging dogfights, bought dogs and then fought them there, and in several other states, over six years.

Dogs that didn't show enough fighting spirit or lost matches were put to death by methods that included shooting, drowning, hanging and electrocution, according to the indictment. Prosecutors allege that on one occasion earlier this year, Vick participated in killing eight dogs.

Vick, 27, was a standout athlete at Virginia Tech and the first player chosen in the 2001 NFL draft. He is one of pro football's highest-profile and highest-paid players, and signed a 10-year, $130 million contract with the Falcons in 2004.

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The Falcons issued a statement July 17 saying, "We are disappointed that one of our players -- and therefore the Falcons -- is being presented to the public in a negative way, and we apologize to our fans and the community for that. ... However, we are prepared to deal with it, and we will do the right thing for our club as the legal process plays out."

Vick will not forfeit any pay during his forced absence from camp, the league said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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