ATLANTA (AP) – Less than five years after the Atlanta Falcons signed Michael Vick to a $130 million contract, the suspended quarterback was released in a 98-word statement.

Before Friday’s announcement – a move that clears Vick to sign with any NFL team general manager Thomas Dimitroff called the team’s former franchise player.

Dimitroff said Vick, who has missed two seasons while serving a prison sentence for running a dogfighting ring, deserved to hear first about his release. He said Vick “was upbeat” in the short conversation and was looking forward to moving on.

“Respect him as an individual and as an athlete in this profession. It was the right thing to do and I’m happy that we had a conversation today.”

Dimitroff said releasing Vick allows the Falcons “to have a clean slate going into the summer” and allows Vick the freedom to negotiate with other teams.

“I think what we thought about a lot was going into the summer, having a clean slate, not talking about this a lot and not having this be any sort of an issue at all, for Michael, for us,” Dimitroff said. “It was about being positive. It was about moving forward.”

Vick is eligible to immediately sign with a team even though he has not been reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

The Falcons’ move was no surprise.

“Everybody always knew that Mike wouldn’t be playing with the Falcons,” Vick’s agent, Joel Segal, said. “He’s really just taking it one day at a time.”

The NFL had no comment on Vick’s release.

Goodell has said he will sit down with Vick after the quarterback completes his 23-month sentence on July 20 for running a dogfighting ring.

“Michael’s going to have to demonstrate to myself and the general public and to a lot of people, did he learn anything from this experience? Does he regret what happened?” Goodell said last month at the NFL meetings in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “Does he feel that he can be a positive influence going forward? Those are questions that I would like to see when I sit with him.”

Vick, once the highest-paid player in the NFL, is making $10 an hour as a construction worker while he serves the final two months of his sentence on home confinement in Hampton, Va. He was released from federal prison in Kansas on May 20.

Atlanta had long since turned the page on Vick. The Falcons made quarterback Matt Ryan the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s draft. Ryan started every game as a rookie and led the Falcons to the playoffs.

Vick was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and led the Falcons to the 2005 NFC championship game.

Dimitroff said Friday’s release came only after the team was unable to trade Vick’s rights. Any team which now pursues Vick must await his possible reinstatement from Goodell and must try to determine how two years away from the game will affect his conditioning and skills. Vick will celebrate his 29th birthday on June 26.

“There were a number of teams that were open to discussion but at the very end without mentioning the teams they just felt like it was not the right time to do it for them and we just decided to move forward,” Dimitroff said.

The Falcons could not even land a draft pick for the player who had been the figurehead for the organization.

Dimitroff said no team gave him an indication of plans to pursue Vick after he was released, but Dimitroff said “I’m sure there will be interest.”

“As we all know, Mike is an exceptional athlete and he has the ability to play in this league again and I’m sure he probably will,” Dimitroff said.

After Vick’s release Friday, no team expressed immediate interest in signing him. The New York Jets, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns said they had no interest in Vick and the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills declined comment.

New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis said there are “no plans to bring Michael Vick to the Saints.”

Browns coach Eric Mangini said, “I wish him well, but really I’m focusing on the guys we have here.”

Speculation about Vick’s NFL future started even before his release from the Falcons.

Jim Mora, whose Vick-led team advanced to the NFC championship game in 2003, said this week he doesn’t expect Vick to find a job with his Seattle team.

“I’ll just say this for the record: We are very happy with the quarterbacks we have on our roster,” Mora said. “We have no intentions of adding another player to our roster at this time. … Just cut out the ‘at this time,’ because then people will speculate for the next three months. We have no intentions of adding a quarterback to our roster.”

Colts owner Jim Irsay also recently said his team would not pursue Vick.

“We’re not looking at that situation. We don’t have an interest there,” Irsay said.

Mora said Vick deserves another chance in the league.

“I believe he’s paid his debt to society,” Mora said.

Even as he hopes for reinstatement from Goodell and begins his search for another NFL home, Vick faces other pressing priorities, including his crumbled finances.

On Tuesday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Frank Santoro set a July 2 deadline for Vick to submit a revised Chapter 11 plan. A hearing to confirm or reject the plan was set for Aug. 27.

Santoro said that if the new plan fails to address the shortcomings that prompted him to reject the first one in April, he will appoint an independent trustee to take over management of Vick’s finances.

AP Sports Writer Hank Kurz Jr. in Richmond, Va., contributed to this report.

AP-ES-06-12-09 1834EDT

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