Judge rules former Atlanta QB Vick can keep $16.25M in bonuses

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Jailed quarterback Michael Vick can keep all but 3.75 million dollars of the nearly 20 million in bonus money he received from the Atlanta Falcons following a ruling today by a federal judge.

The Falcons sought to recover the bonuses after Vick pleaded guilty to federal charges in a dogfighting operation. The bonuses were paid from 2004-07.

A special master ruled in October the Falcons were entitled to recover the bonuses. The Falcons argued that Vick used proceeds from a contract he signed in 2004 to finance illicit activities.

But U.S. District Judge David Doty of Minneapolis ruled that recovery of most of the bonus money by the Falcons would violate the NFL collective bargaining agreement. The judge wrote that the agreement does not allow roster bonus money to be forfeited once it's been earned.

The NFL criticized Doty's ruling. The league has suspended Vick indefinitely without pay.

Vick's personal attorney, Lawrence Woodward Jr., said Vick was happy with the ruling but understands there could be appeals.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)