Bobby Petrino has known Michael Vick for only a few months. That's long enough for the Atlanta Falcons' coach to believe his biggest star wasn't involved in an alleged dog-fighting operation.

Petrino said he hopes the star quarterback will soon be cleared of any connection to the dozens of dogs found last month at a home Vick owns in Virginia.

"I need to believe in Michael," said Petrino, who was hired by the Falcons in January to replace Jim Mora. "His track record with me is that he's told me the truth. I'm going to believe what Michael tells me."

Vick has blamed wayward relatives for taking advantage of his generosity and insisted that he's rarely at the house in Smithfield, Va., where the dogs were found - even though he's the owner.

The Falcons say they can't comment on the specifics of the dog-fighting case until officials in Virginia reach a decision on whether to file charges.

Investigators reported finding dozens of dogs - some of them injured and malnourished - along with items associated with organized fighting, such as treadmills for training, veterinary drugs commonly used to treat wounds and blood-soaked carpeting.


* Tennessee signed quarterback Tim Rattay and also claimed linebacker Gilbert Gardner off waivers from Indianapolis.

* An arbitrator is expected to hear the Detroit Lions' case in their bid to recover $10.1 million of a rookie signing bonus paid to Charles Rogers, a first-round draft choice whose career was cut short by injuries and drug problems. The NFL suspended the Saginaw native for four games in 2005 for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

* The Jacksonville Jaguars signed free-agent cornerback Bruce Thornton, filling Ahmad Carroll's roster spot. Carroll was waived Monday following his arrest in Atlanta Saturday on weapon and drug charges.

* Oakland fired senior personnel executive Michael Lombardi, further distancing themselves from last year's 2-14 season. The Raiders did not say if anyone would take Lombardi's job. *