Roger Goodell, noted wearer of fine suits and commissioner of the NFL, visited Redskins' training camp this week -- now there's a work trip -- and was asked if had decided how long Michael Vick would be suspended.
Previously, Goodell said he would rule on Vick's eligibility prior to the sixth week of the regular season. That's such an open-ended statement that who knows what it really meant. Taken literally, and Goodell seems to be a literal guy, it means nothing. He could issue a ruling any time prior to that or, by the sixth week of the regular season, decide he needed more time to think it over.
"The issue for Michael is to be able to deal with all of the issues in that transition back to the NFL," Goodell said. "A lot of those issues that I'm focusing on are off the field. How is he doing with the transition? Does he has his family relocated. Does he have the right people around him, helping him make decisions. Tony Dungy has been incredibly helpful, Donovan McNabb has been helpful. I talk to Michael on a weekly basis, if not more. I'll be meeting with him sometime in the near future. I think he's making the right kind of progress. He's focused on the right kind of things."
Not a lot of meat on the bones there. The commissioner is focusing on off-the-field issues. Oh, yeah. That's a big shock. And Vick is making the right kind of progress. Which is good, because you never want to make the wrong kind of progress.
What does it all mean? There is a swell of backroom murmuring that indicates Goodell will do the Solomon thing and cut the suspension roughly in half, allowing Vick to return after sitting out three regular-season games. That would fall nicely for the Eagles, who have the bye in the fourth week and could get Vick back on the practice field for two weeks leading up to the Oct. 11 game. Another bonus is that game is a home game, which would also make for a smoother re-entry.
The big question is what would the Eagles do with Vick in the meantime. One theory is they would place him on the exempt list, thus allowing them to keep 53 other players on the active roster, but that would prevent Vick from practicing with the team. Andy Reid, speaking Tuesday about his plans for the roster, depending on the length of Vick's suspension, said, "I've got a plan either way."
I think they'll keep him active and keep him practicing. It doesn't make much sense to do otherwise and the suspension could benefit the Eagles in that way, if Vick's learning curve on picking up the offense and the Wildcat wrinkles he will take part in, is allowed to lenghten a bit. And although he'd certainly be working out somewhere if on the exempt list, practicing with the team will help his game conditioning return to its former level.
A side effect of that is Vick will get paid, with this season's $1.6 million guaranteed, if he is on the active roster. If not, the Eagles get to keep the dough a while longer, buy some time in the event that Vick makes the wrong kind of progress. That seems unlikely, though. At this point with Vick, they are in for a dime, in for a dollar.
The other decision is whether to deal A.J. Feeley now for a tight end or a draft pick or something tangible, or wait until the Vick suspension is lifted, taking the risk that teams would be satisfied with the reserve quarterbacks they already have in place.
Don't be surprised if Goodell and Vick meet Friday in New York, with an announcement of the exact length of the suspension coming late that afternoon.