NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is leaning toward indefinitely suspending former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress(notes) and continuing to sideline quarterback Michael Vick(notes), three sources with knowledge of the situations have indicated. Such moves would be the latest examples of Goodell's tough stance on players embroiled in off-field issues as evidenced with the suspension of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte' Stallworth(notes) earlier this month.
Stallworth has been ruled out indefinitely by the league after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter in the death of a Miami man in March. Stallworth was sentenced to 30 days in jail, two years of house arrest and reached a financial settlement with the family of the late Mario Reyes.
According to a source with the Giants, the league and another that's close to Vick, Goodell figures to take a similar stance with the quarterback and Burress. Vick, a former starter for the Atlanta Falcons, is scheduled to be released from federal confinement on July 20 after serving 20 months for his part in a dog-fighting ring. A source indicated there was a reasonable likelihood that Vick, suspended indefinitely by the league in August 2007, will not be allowed to play this season and certainly not be with a team in training camp.
Goodell has said multiple times that he wants to see Vick show remorse for his actions. That means Vick may have to follow a strict path of behavior before he's allowed to return.
"[Vick] is not just walking out one day and playing again," the source close to Vick said. "I don't know if he understands that yet, but that's what it looks like right now if you really pay attention. … Yeah, he served his time, but he has to prove himself. When the commissioner talks about wanting to see remorse, he's not kidding."
By contrast, Burress has yet to be indicted on charges that he possessed and fired an unregistered gun in a New York City nightclub in November. However, the slow development of Burress' case – adjourned until September and could be delayed until March, according to Burress' lawyer Benjamin Brafman – may not keep him from being punished by the NFL.
His refusal to accept jail time as part of a plea bargain in the case that resulted in a self-inflicted gun wound and could be punishable by as much as 3½ years has irritated Goodell and others within the NFL, according to the league source.
That situation has left Burress' status up in the air. Agent Drew Rosenhaus said as many as five teams have contacted him about signing Burress. However, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have said they are not interested in the receiver and most teams are still in a holding pattern when it comes to making a real offer because of the unclear status of Burress with the league and the legal system.
"The commissioner would rather have the prosecutors take some action before he does anything, but he's prepared to do something regardless if he has to," the league source said.