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I have yet to complain about Roger Goodell. He has done a marvelous job picking up where should be Hall of Famer Paul Tagliabue left off. He has never wavered in dropping the judicial hammer on his players in an effort to protect the image of his league. Heâ€™s tossed an administrative perfect game. He seems smart. He seems stern. His decisions have been strict but fair- until now.
For the first time during his tenure, Roger Goodell contradicted himself this week when he ordered Michael Vick to stay away from Atlanta Falconsâ€™ training camp. The decision came one week after the NFL said they would monitor developments and allow the legal process to "determine the facts." Tennessee Titan fans were incensed. â€œHow could Pacman Jones be suspended without ever being convicted in a court of law? Why should Vick be treated any differently?â€ Simple. This was Vickâ€™s first major violation while Pacman was running on double digits.
Like every other Goodell decision, I agreed with the reasoning. Why should Vick be grouped in with Pacman, Chris Henry or Tank Johnson? That wouldnâ€™t seem fair. The commish had gotten it right again. He would allow due process to run its course. If Vick were going to be disciplined inside the lines, it would be left up to the Falcons to dole out the punishment. Makes sense right? Apparently not.
On Monday, Goodell informed Vick that he would not be allowed to participate in training camp until an investigation was complete:
â€œWhile it is for the criminal justice system to determine your guilt or innocence, it is my responsibility as commissioner of the National Football League to determine whether your conduct, even if not criminal, nonetheless violated league policies, including the Personal Conduct Policy."
Just like that, the league pulled a U-turn. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? What happened to allowing the legal process to â€œdetermine the facts?â€ What happened to treating this differently from the Pacman saga because of the disparity in track records? Someone got in Goodellâ€™s ear, thatâ€™s what happened. The league apparently heard the PETA protests in New York and Georgia. They heard the outcry coming from the Humane Society and other animal-rights groups. They started to sense high-powered sponsors getting ready to jump ship. In other words, they caved under Don Imus-like pressure.
The recent change of heart makes me believe Goodell knows more than he is letting on. There is no need for another press release. His recent course of action tells us all we need to know. He believes Vick is guilty of something. Maybe he didnâ€™t beat or suffocate those dogs but he did something. How else could Goodell feel comfortable enough to conclude that Vick violated any team/league policy?
By now, you are probably thinking that I donâ€™t take these dogfighting charges seriously. I assure you this is not the case. It takes a sick, twisted individual to electrocute, shoot and hang dogs that lose these fights. Do I think Vick knew what was going down at his property in Virginia? Do I think that he was personally involved in some capacity? Did he look Arthur Blank and Roger Goodell in the face and lie about his involvement?
I would answer yes to all of the above.
But I still have a MAJOR problem with Goodell backpedaling while assuming Vick is guilty of violating league policies while a federal investigation is taking place. We have a judicial system in place for a reason. Let the process play out. As for training camp, there are only three parties that should determine Vickâ€™s NFL future at this time: 1) The criminal justice system 2) The Atlanta Falcons and 3) Vick himself. Any other decision rendered by the NFL is premature and contradictory.
Sorry commish, youâ€™re perfect game just got broken up.