NEW YORK (Reuters) - Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick faced condemnation in the media on Wednesday and an uncertain future following his federal indictment on Tuesday over alleged involvement in a dog-fighting operation.
Vick, a three-times Pro Bowl choice with breakaway running speed and a powerful passing arm, could face up to six years in prison and $350,000 in fines if convicted on all charges.
“It wasn’t that long ago that Vick was the face of the NFL. Today he’s the face of something cruel and reprehensible,” wrote columnist Neal McCready of Alabama’s Mobile Press-Register.
The 27-year-old Vick has denied direct involvement in the pitbull fights alleged to have taken place on property he owns in Virginia.
The indictment in Richmond, Virginia, said dogs had been put to death by drowning, hanging, gunshot and electrocution. It also charged Vick and his associates with shooting dogs that did not pass muster after tests of their fighting ability.
The news comes as the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, have been cracking down on illegal off-field behavior of players with suspensions.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution raised the question of Vick’s status for the upcoming season.
“There are questions of Vick’s availability for the season and the public relations blow of having its star player — one of the most popular in the NFL — face possible jail time,” wrote Steve Wyche.
“Michael Vick’s run as a megastar celebrity athlete officially ended yesterday,” declared columnist Bob Lipper in Virginia’s Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“At best, his image has been battered beyond repair. At worst, he could be facing perp walks, orange jumpsuits and prison bars.”
Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon wrote that Vick’s career is in serious trouble and so may be the Falcons.
“No burst of speed is going to get him out of this one,” wrote Wilbon.
“You want to know how big this is in a football sense? The Falcons, clearly betting on Vick’s availability, let their very capable backup, Matt Schaub, go to the Houston Texans. Bobby Petrino, a rookie head coach coming from the college ranks, was building his system around Vick’s talent.