The Atlanta Falcons quarterback said through a lawyer Monday that he will plead guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges, an admission that likely will mean prison time.
Vick may never play anywhere in the NFL again, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann. If he put up most of the gambling money, as his co-defendants claim, the NFL could ban him for life.
But for now, any hopes of salvaging his NFL career are secondary to his impending confinement.
"His focus is on his family, his focus is on answering to this judge," Vick's lead defense attorney, Billy Martin, told The Associated Press after announcing the plea agreement Monday.
U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson can sentence Vick to up to five years in prison and fine him $250,000, although federal sentencing guidelines will call for less. A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the terms are not final, told the AP that prosecutors will recommend a sentence of a year to 18 months.
The official said such a sentence would be more than what is usually recommended for first-time offenders, reflecting the government's attempt to show that animal abusers will receive more than a slap on the wrist.
Vick will return Monday to the same courthouse where he pleaded not guilty and resolved to prove his innocence just 25 days ago. This time he will plead guilty, and Hudson will schedule a date for sentencing.
Since that initial court appearance, all three of Vick's co-defendants have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in the government's case against him, including testifying against him if the case had gone to trial in November as scheduled.
The co-defendants said Vick bankrolled virtually the entire "Bad Newz Kennels" operation in rural southeastern Virginia, including providing gambling funds, an act that could trigger a lifetime ban from the NFL under the league's personal conduct policy.
Two of them also said Vick participated in the brutal executions of at least eight underperforming dogs.
Facing those allegations and the prospect of a superseding indictment from a new grand jury that began meeting Monday, Vick opted to change his plea.
"Mr. Vick has agreed to enter a plea of guilty to those charges and to accept full responsibility for his actions and the mistakes he has made," Martin said in a statement. "Michael wishes to apologize again to everyone who has been hurt by this matter."
CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman said Vick had little choice but to accept the plea deal.
"This was a deal that he had to take at this point. It's one thing to have one person testifying against you. When you have three co-defendants, plus others testifying against you, even a great lawyer like Billy Martin knows his limits," Klieman said.
Even with his plea deal, Vick's legal troubles still aren't over, reports Strassman. That just takes care of business with the feds; state prosecutors in Virginia say they plan to bring their own charges against Vick for dogfighting sometime late next month.