Michael Vick declared "I am not the bad person or beast I've been made out to be" and asked for leniency in a letter to the federal judge who sentenced him to 23 months in prison for a dogfighting conspiracy.

Vick made his handwritten plea from jail as he awaited Monday's sentencing by Judge Henry E. Hudson. His five-page letter and several others from Vick supporters, including baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron and former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman, were released by the U.S. District Court in Richmond, Va., yesterday.

"I take full responsibility for my actions and am ashamed that my actions hurt animals and allowed animals to be hurt and killed," Vick wrote. " . . . Your Honor, I just ask for a second chance."

The suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback's appeal wasn't enough to overcome Hudson's finding that Vick lied at various times about his hands-on role in helping kill pit bulls and about his marijuana use, which was detected by a drug screening. Hudson cited those lapses in giving Vick a longer sentence than two fellow defendants, who previously were sentenced to 18 months and 21 months.


* The NFL will hear the appeal by the players' union on behalf of suspended Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones by telephone this afternoon. A person familiar with details of Jones' appeal told the Associated Press of the hearing, but requested anonymity because the scheduling has not been officially announced.

Commissioner Roger Goodell declined to ease Jones' seasonlong suspension Nov. 6, and the NFL Players' Association appealed that decision a couple days later. But the union's appeal has been limited because Jones dropped his own appeal in June. The NFL declined to comment when asked whether the appeal would be heard today.

* San Francisco backup quarterback Shaun Hill, who hasn't started in nearly six seasons, will lead the offense against Cincinnati tomorrow night. Alex Smith is done for the season following shoulder surgery, and Trent Dilfer likely is finished as well after suffering a concussion last week.

* San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers practiced, increasing the chances he'll play in Sunday's home game against Detroit.

* Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed practice again because of a sore right shoulder, but is expected to play Sunday against Jacksonville. *