Aug 042010

August 4 Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan

“You can tell Roger Goodell and the Eagles are wrong about Michael Vick by the knots they twist themselves into while trying to justify their actions – and inaction.

The NFL commissioner dropped into Eagles camp Tuesday afternoon along with John Madden in some rock star’s tour bus. Goodell included Lehigh University on his tour of training camps partly so he could meet with Vick about his ill-fated June birthday party. Goodell then proceeded to contort himself into a variety of knots during a 15-minute news conference.

He held the news conference before meeting with Vick and officially informing him that he doesn’t face further discipline. The timing was a crafty move by the PR-savvy Goodell because it allowed him to deflect all the difficult questions and avoid being pinned down on the inconsistencies in his position.

“I tried to look at this and understand the facts,” Goodell said, while joining the Eagles and Vick in withholding those facts from the fans.

Did he seriously consider further disciplinary action against Vick?

When did he decide against it? Why did he decide against it? Goodell wouldn’t even say that he’d decided anything at that point.

What did he learn from the league investigation into the night Vick’s old dog-fighting conspirator Quanis Phillips got shot after Vick’s for-profit birthday bash?

Setting aside the shooting for a moment, is Vick reporting income from the event to the bankruptcy court as part of his obligation to his many creditors?

Why is it OK for a guy who was given a zero-tolerance policy to stage such an event and be around alcohol and guns at 2 a.m.?

“I’d like to sit with him and share that with him before I share it with everybody else,” Goodell said.

By not answering these kinds of questions, Goodell feeds the perception that he and the Eagles are letting Vick slide to protect themselves. They exposed themselves to criticism and second-guessing by making it possible for Vick to sign with the Eagles a year ago. Jeff Lurie, who still hasn’t addressed the most recent incident, set very high standards for Vick’s continued employment with this team.

“As I told him a year ago,” Goodell said, “he can’t afford any lapses in judgment. He just can’t afford that. He needs to make sure he’s held to that high standard.”

It certainly looks from here as if those standards have been lowered – from “agent for social change” to “hey, the victim didn’t cooperate and no charges were filed” – because adhering to them would mean admitting the whole experiment was a failure.

So instead, Goodell swooped in and shook his finger and told Vick that he really, really, really means it this time.”

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