The NFL has suspended Michael Vick indefinitely without pay, throwing the Atlanta quarterback's career in doubt.
The NFL suspension, which goes into effect immediately, came after Vick filed a plea agreement in U.S. Federal Court Friday afternoon, admitting to conspiracy in a dogfighting ring and helping kill pit bulls.
Vick denied ever betting on the fights, but did admit to bankrolling them. TheNational FootballLeaguestar is scheduled to formally enter his plea Monday in U.S. District Court in Virginia.
In his letter to Vick notifying him of the suspension, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told the Falcons star his "admitted conduct was not only illegal, but also cruel and reprehensible. Your team, the NFL and NFL fans have all been hurt by your actions."
"Even if you personally did not place bets, as you contend, your actions in funding the betting and your association with illegal gambling both violate the terms of your [contract] and expose you to corrupting influences in derogation of one of the most fundamental responsibilities of an NFL player," the letter read.
Goodell said he would "review the status of [Vick's] suspension following the conclusion of the legal proceedings" against the Atlanta quarterback.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank said he supported Goodell's decision.
"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."
Vick, 27, was accused of helping to run an interstate dogfighting outfit known as Bad Newz Kennels from 2001 through 2007.
"Most of the Bad Newz Kennels operation and gambling monies were provided by Vick," a summary of facts said.
Co-conspirators shared proceeds
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 court documents, Vick and two of his co-defendants killed a number of dogs that did not perform well in practice sessions. 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 Peace, Phillips and Vick."
A federal grand jury indicted Vick on July 17. His attorneys said on Monday that the quarterback had agreed to plead guilty and accept full responsibility for his actions.
He accepted a plea agreement after his co-defendants agreed to co-operate with prosecutors under their own deals and testify against Vick.
As part of the plea agreement offer to Vick, the government will recommend 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. The judge is not bound by any recommendation or by the sentencing guidelines.
Vick will not be sentenced for several months, but in the meantime, sporting goods giant Nike said it had terminated its contract with the player.
Vick, a three-time Pro Bowler who set an NFL record for quarterbacks by rushing for 1,039 yards last season, signed a 10-year, $130-million US contract extension on Dec. 23, 2004.
CFL commissioner Mark Cohon quashed any notion of Vick playing in Canada anytime soon.
"In response to media inquiries regarding the possibility of Michael Vick playing in the CFL, I would like to clarify that any NFL players, who are currently under contract or serving a suspension, are prohibited from signing a CFL player contract as outlined by the League's governing documents," Cohon said in astatement release on Friday.
The rule came about after Toronto took advantage of a loophole to sign suspended NFL running back Ricky Williams last season.