The man of the hour, or perhaps the upcoming Eagles season, was absent.

But Michael Vick's crimes involving animal cruelty and dogfighting prompted a meeting yesterday at the NovaCare Center in South Philadelphia between Eagles management and a host of local and national animal-advocacy groups.

Participants of the meeting, attended by about 50 people representing the team and 20-plus groups, offered few specifics afterward of what had been discussed. Eagles representatives included team president Joe Banner and its vice president of communications, Pamela Browner-Crawley.

The sit-down's tone was described, alternatively, as "tough" "direct" and "animated" by some of the attendees, many of whom spoke with the media last night when they emerged. Everyone agreed the dialogue among the parties would continue.

Browner-Crawley characterized the meeting as a "huge learning process for a lot of us here at the Eagles."

"This was a good beginning, it was a tough but constructive conversation. We really appreciated the honesty and forthrightness that people came to talk with us about tonight."

District Attorney Lynne Abraham, invited by the Eagles to participate, declined to say what the discussions were about. "I don't think it's appropriate. It was a private meeting." She said she wasn't representing the team or Vick.

Abraham said she was on hand to explain animal cruelty and abuse, including related vices, from a prosecutor's perspective.

Guns, drugs and gambling often go hand in hand with dogfighting, she said. And equally disturbing is that children who torture animals may go on to sexually abuse children, she said.

Sue Cosby, chief executive offier of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said: "We felt it was important to go . . . to make the Eagles understand what's happening in the city" regarding dogfighting.

The Humane Society of the United States has partnered with Vick to talk with youngsters about animal cruelty. Its chief executive, Wayne Pacelle, who appeared alongside Vick in his recent "60 Minutes" interview, was there.

"The Eagles heard a major message that there are problems here in Pennsylvania and this region in particular," said Pacelle.

"And I heard from the Eagles that they are committed to hearing from them and addressing the problems in some way."