When Vick was conditionally reinstated by Goodell last month after serving 18 months in federal prison for operating a dogfighting ring, as well as torturing and killing dogs, it included a suspension of up to five regular-season games, with the possibility of it being reduced if Vick proved to Goodell that he was serious about turning his life around.
Before making his decision, the commissioner met yesterday morning for 50 minutes with Vick and Eagles coach Andy Reid at the team's hotel in North Jersey. He also spoke by phone for about 45 minutes with retired Colts coach Tony Dungy, who has been mentoring Vick.
Shortly before meeting with reporters in a conference room at the league's Park Avenue offices at 4 p.m., Goodell called Vick and told him the exact length of his suspension.
"I think he's making real progress," Goodell said. "I think he has a better feel for the challenges ahead of him. We have spent a lot of time talking and meeting. We have given him a mentor in Tony. He's got a great organization that he's with that has given him a lot of structure and resources.
"I think he's demonstrating his commitment. He's demonstrating he's going to use better judgment going forward. At the end of the day, though, it's a gut check.''
Vick will miss the Eagles' first two games, against Carolina and New Orleans. The first game he'll be eligible to play in is against Kansas City at Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 27.
He can practice with the team while he's suspended, but only if the Eagles put him on the 53-man roster. The Eagles must make their final cuts by tomorrow.
Asked how Vick responded when told the length of his suspension, Goodell said: "He understood and he recognizes that he has to prove himself every day. He's very realistic about the challenges ahead. But he's very committed also. He's anxious to play football, which is a good sign."
While a lot of people in Philadelphia weren't happy when the Eagles signed Vick last month, the public outcry hasn't been nearly as severe as either the team or the league thought it would be. But as Goodell warned Vick yesterday, it's still early.
"I warned him that he may not get the same reaction this evening [at Giants Stadium],'' he said. "Nor may he get the same reaction in other places. I wanted to make sure he was prepared for that. Because it could be difficult for him.''
Vick has made two appearances on behalf of the Humane Society since signing with the Eagles, but neither was in Philadelphia. Goodell said Vick will be doing several more appearances for the Humane Society in the next few weeks, and those will be in the Philadelphia area.
Goodell said Vick has done nothing since he's signed with the Eagles to give him pause about the sincerity of his contrition. The day after he signed with the team, the New York Post reported that Vick was seen having a drink in the restaurant of the Philadelphia Airport Marriott Hotel, where he was staying. But the commissioner reiterated yesterday that having a drink was a violation of neither his probation nor the conditions of reinstatement with the league.
"We did discuss it on the phone and discussed it again today with Michael and Tony and coach Reid,'' Goodell said. "It highlights the tremendous microscope that this man is under.
"He understands he has very little margin for error. While it wasn't a violation, it underscored the point that people are watching him closely. And they're going to make judgments on what he does. I think it served as a useful lesson for him in that sense.''
In addition to adhering to the terms of his probation, Vick also must comply with league-mandated counseling obligations. He also must adhere to all league policies. Break one and he's history.
"I'm sure he understands that he has a fairly narrow margin [for error] here,'' said NFL counsel Jeff Pash.
Goodell said yesterday that Vick is "very genuine in his remorse.'' But he already lied to Goodell once, swearing to him 2 years ago after he was first arrested that he was not involved in dogfighting. Why is the commissioner so convinced he is telling the truth now?
"We had a very direct conversation about that,'' Goodell said. "He recognizes he has to earn that [trust] back again. And it's not going to be by telling me anything. It's going to be by demonstrating.
"He acknowledged that again this morning. He said, 'I have to demonstrate to you and to others that I recognize I have to make better judgments going forward.' And I think he understands that and is prepared for that."