Many of you probably watched or read about Blank's press conference a short time ago; I don't have a transcript handy, so here's the AJC summary of the conference. The owner seemed to have a very good idea of what he wanted to say going in and really didn't stray from it at any point, which I consider a good move. It also reinforced just how quickly Michael Vick's exile from the team has really moved. Blank hasn't talked to Vick in a week, he supported a four game ban but settled on this, and cutting the QB was considered but ultimately rejected. Blank even said he was "very disappointed" in Vick, but it was in the resigned tone of a father whose son has just held up a convenience store. It's absolutely crystal clear that this team doesn't want Vick as a distraction:
"We need to provide Coach Petrino, his staff and our players with the ability to focus on preparing for the upcoming season," said Blank. "This has been a difficult week. We are not here to pass judgment on guilt or innocence... [however] we cannot allow this latest development to disrupt" what the Falcons are trying to achieve on the field.
Blank was very good at not throwing Vick to the wolves. Every indication was that the two had an almost familial relationship, and it struck me to imagine just how painful this whole thing must be for him. If I were him, owner or no owner, I'm not sure I'd be able to keep the disgust out of my voice. Blank's good at public relations, though, and he toed the line. Emphasizing that the team sought a suspension and supports the training camp ban was a good move, because it essentially removes the legal aspect. Arthur Blank has a responsibility to this team, and whatever your beef with him I thought he did a good job of making that clear today.
There's still the lingering issue of where the Falcons go after this. I'm almost 100% certain they'll be opening the season with Harrington as the starter at this point. There'll be plenty of position battles to cover at camp, and I'm more than looking forward to moving away from this issue for a bit. Let's not kid ourselves, though. Vick has loomed over this team since he arrived here, becoming both the face of the Falcons and something larger than the team. Just because he won't be on the field doesn't mean the media or the fans are going to stop thinking about him. Vick is destined to be the cloud over this season, if it's not already too late for that, and that's a pity considering how excited I am to see Petrino and the rookies show us what they're capable of. It's an unhappy situation, and today Blank took the first step toward slapping a smiley face on it.
But it's still a long way home.