..he’s done, although the legal and administrative gyrations will continue for a few more months.

On the legal front, ESPN is reporting that Vick’s attorneys are trying to negotiate a plea deal with federal prosecutors on the conspiracy and dog-fighting charges filed against the NFL star. Sources tell ESPN that Vick’s legal team is encouraging the Falcons quarterback to accept the deal, if it includes less than one year of jail time. However, Vick has apparently not decided whether to enter a plea bargain, or take his chances in court. His case goes to trial in November.

Meanwhile, other media outlets are suggesting that prosecutors already have an offer on the table: 16 months in jail for a guilty plea, or face the prospect of more charges being filed. Vick’s “hometown” newspaper–the Newport News Daily Press–reports that the feds are threatening a superseded indictment against the former Viriginia Tech star, adding racketeering charges to those already filed.

The more serious racketeering charges carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence, compared to a six-year term for conspiracy and dog-fighting. Originally designed to fight mob crime in the 1970s, the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute has used broadly in recent years, in a variety of federal cases.

As the alleged leader of an interstate dog-fighting ring, Vick is certainly a target for a RICO indictment, and with his former associates now cooperating with the feds, prosecutors seem confident in their ability to charge Vick with more serious crimes–or use a threatened indictment to secure a guilty plea on lesser charges.

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While Vick’s legal position is certainly tenuous, his NFL career could probably survive his current woes. A 16-month jail term would force him to miss two seasons, but given Vick’s relative youth (he just turned 27) and exceptional talent, there are probably teams that would give him a shot, after his release from prison.

Never mind that he participated in a gruesome, barbaric “sport,” and brutally executed dogs that failed to perform. A mobile quarterback with an outstanding “arm” is something rare, indeed, and there are NFL coaches and general managers who would welcome Vick to their teams, assuming he can get past his legal problems.

Unfortunately, Michael Vick’s “second act” in the National Football League seems increasingly improbable, thanks to related accusations that have surfaced in the dog-fighting case. Court papers and media reports indicate that “Ookie” Vick bet large sums of money on individual fights, as much as $250,000 in recent years (by some accounts). If those allegations can be proven, it puts Vick in violation of the NFL’s ban on gambling.

Participation in gambling is the surest way to end a pro sports career, as Mr. Vick will soon discover. True, there are no indications that the Falcons quarterback bet on NFL games, but any accusation of gambling by players is taken very seriously–and thoroughly investigated. Confirmation of Vick’s activities could earn him a life-time ban from the league, the NFL’s “maximum” penalty for gambling.

As of this writing, the league is still looking into the matter, and hasn’t announced whether Vick will be suspended for the 2007 season. But sources tell ESPN that a suspension appears inevitable, while the league continues its investigation. And, it doesn’t take a legal analyst to figure out that the NFL is devoting most of its efforts to the gambling allegations. Vick’s participation in dog-fighting will bring him public ruin (and jail time), but it’s the gambling connection that will, ultimately, end his NFL career.

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