- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

From combined dispatches

A federal appeals court Tuesday backed the judge who ruled against the NFL and let quarterback Michael Vick keep more than $16 million in roster bonuses from the Atlanta Falcons.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Minneapolis affirmed Judge David Doty’s order saying Vick had already earned the bonuses before his dogfighting conviction, so the money wasn’t subject to forfeiture.

Vick served 18 months in prison and is now with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Doty has long handled matters arising from the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. After Doty ruled in the Vick bonus case, the NFL accused him of bias and sought to end his oversight of its contract with the players union.

The appeals court said the contract should remain under Doty’s oversight.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello did not say whether the league planned a further appeal, but he said the 8th Circuit upheld Doty’s ruling on Vick’s bonuses in large part because it found the contract’s forfeiture language ambiguous.

“That is something that we will seek to change at the bargaining table to ensure that bonus payments are paid to players who comply with their contracts and perform on the field,” Aiello said.

Vick, a former Atlanta Falcons star, was released from federal custody July 20 after serving 18 months of a 23-month sentence for running a dogfighting ring in Surry County, Va.

STEELERS: Coach Mike Tomlin isn’t saying whether Pittsburgh has any interest in Larry Johnson, the former Penn State running back who was released by Kansas City.

Still, the Steelers’ answer appears to be the same as it was in 2003: Johnson isn’t in their plans.

Johnson, who has long wanted to play in Pittsburgh, was cut Monday after being suspended by Kansas City for the second time in a year. The Steelers have long stayed away from signing troubled players, and they appear to be set at running back with starter Rashard Mendenhall and backup Willie Parker.

“I don’t discuss free agents,” Tomlin said only a few hours after the Steelers returned from their 28-10 victory in Denver on Monday night. “That opens Pandora’s box. I tend to focus on the guys that are in our locker room.”

Tomlin made similar comments when quarterback Michael Vick was on the market last summer. The Steelers had no interest in Vick.

TV: The Philadelphia-Chicago matchup Nov. 22 will remain the Sunday night game even though NBC had the option of picking another contest.

The NFL’s flexible scheduling policy goes into effect that week for the rest of the season. But the league announced the network decided to stick with the original matchup, which could have NFC wild-card implications.

BROWNS: Linebacker Eric Barton will miss the rest of the season with an unspecified injury.

In announcing that Barton was being placed on injured reserve, the Browns did not reveal his injury or a timetable for their leading tackler’s recovery.

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