UPDATE: The NFL indefinitely suspended Michael Vick without pay Friday just hours after he acknowledged in court papers that he did, indeed, bankroll gambling on dogfighting and helped kill some dogs not worthy of the pit.
Vick, however, insisted he placed no bets of his own nor took any winnings.
In disciplining Vick, commissioner Roger Goodell said Vick's admitted conduct was "not only illegal but also cruel and reprehensible" and regardless whether he personally placed bets, "your actions in funding the betting and your association with illegal gambling both violate the terms of your NFL player contract and expose you to corrupting influences in derogation of one of the most fundamental responsibilities of an NFL player."
Goodell freed the Falcons to "assert any claims or remedies" to recover $22 million of Vick's signing bonus from the 10-year, $130 million contract he signed in 2004.
The commissioner didn't speak to Vick but based his decision on the court filings. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Goodell may meet with Vick in the future, and Goodell said he would review the suspension after all the legal proceedings.
"You have engaged in conduct detrimental to the welfare of the NFL and have violated the league's personal conduct policy," Goodell told Vick in a letter after meeting in New York with Falcons president and general manager Rich McKay.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank supported Goodell's decision and said:
"We hope that Michael will use this time, not only to further address his legal matters, but to take positive steps to improve his personal life."
Earlier Friday in Richmond, Va., a "summary of facts" signed by Vick was filed along with his written plea agreement on a federal dogfighting conspiracy charge. He will appear before U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson to formally plead guilty Monday and then await sentencing at a later date.
The court documents and a statement by Vick's legal team seek to portray him as less involved in the dogfighting ring than three co-defendants who previously pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the Atlanta Falcons quarterback.
"While Mr. Vick is not personally charged with or responsible for committing all of the acts alleged in the indictment, as with any conspiracy charge, he is taking full responsibility for his actions and the actions of the others involved," the defense team said in a written statement after the plea agreement was filed.
"Mr. Vick apologizes for his poor judgment in associating himself with those involved in dog fighting and realizes he should never have been involved in this conduct," the statement said.
Vick signed the plea agreement late Thursday.
"Most of the Bad Newz Kennels operation and gambling monies were provided by Vick," the summary of facts said, echoing language in plea agreements by the three co-defendants.
The statement said that when the kennel's dogs won, the gambling proceeds were generally shared by Vick's three co-defendants - Tony Taylor, Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips.
"Vick did not gamble by placing side bets on any of the fights. Vick did not receive any of the proceeds of the purses that were won by Bad Newz Kennels," the summary said.
According to the statement, Vick also was involved with the others in killing six to eight dogs that did not perform well in testing sessions last April. The dogs were executed by drowning or hanging.
"Vick agrees and stipulates that these dogs all died as a result of the collective efforts" of Vick, Phillips and Peace, the statement said.
In the plea agreement, the government committed to recommending a sentence on the low end of the federal sentencing guideline range of a year to 18 months. However, the conspiracy charge is punishable by up to five years in prison, and the judge is not bound by any recommendation or by the guidelines.
Hudson has a reputation for imposing stiff sentences, according to lawyers who have appeared in his court. The judge will set a sentencing date at Monday's hearing.
"Our position has been that we are going to try to help Judge Hudson understand all the facts and Michael's role," Vick's defense attorney, Billy Martin, said in telephone interview. "Michael's role was different than others associated with this incident."
Martin said Vick will "speak to the public and explain his actions." Though he declined to say when and where, the Tom Joyner Morning Show, a syndicated program based in Dallas, said it will have a live interview with Vick on Tuesday.
The U.S. attorney's office, which has declined to comment on the case, said it would issue a statement after the hearing.
The case began in April when authorities conducting a drug investigation of Vick's cousin raided a Surry County property owned by Vick and found dozens of dogs, some injured, and equipment commonly used in dogfighting.
A federal indictment issued in July charged Vick, Peace, Phillips and Taylor with an interstate dogfighting conspiracy. Vick initially denied any involvement, and all four men pleaded innocent.
Taylor was the first to change his plea to guilty, saying Vick financed the dogfighting ring's gambling and operations. Peace and Phillips soon followed, alleging that Vick joined them in killing dogs that did not measure up in test fights.
The sickening details outlined in the indictment and other court papers prompted a public backlash against Vick, who had been one of the NFL's most popular players.
Animal-rights groups mobilized against Vick - even protesting at NFL headquarters in New York - and sponsors dropped him.