Vilma says he was not comparing dogfighting to horse racing

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma said Thursday his recent comments comparing dogfighting to horse racing were misunderstood.

Asked on a local radio show his thoughts on the investigation of Falcons quarterback Michael Vick's possible involvement in dogfighting, Vilma said: "Dogfighting is much more extreme, but you can equate it to horse racing. ... Everyone has heard about dogfighting. Whether you choose to participate or not, that's your decision. I'm not here to condone or accept it. It's been there for a while..."

Speaking at the team's minicamp Thursday, Vilma insisted "my comments that were misinterpreted were that I am not for or against dogfighting or Michael Vick. It's an unfortunate situation for Michael Vick whether he is involved or not.

"I was definitely not comparing the two, dogfighting to horse racing. You'll have activists who are against both. They say in horse racing, you put a lot of stress on the animals," Vilma added. "I'm indifferent and it's a matter of wanting to stay away from the whole Michael Vick situation, whether he is involved or not. I'm not saying anything about dogfighting or anyone who might be involved in it."

Vilma, heading into his fourth pro season, said he recognizes the visibility athletes have and how they often are held to different standards than the general population.

"Whether we like it or not, we are high-profile athletes," the 2004 NFL defensive rookie of the year said. "We're role models. Kids come up to me all the time to talk and it makes me remember when I was a kid and I got to meet Jerry Rice and how much that meant to me. And how we've got to set a good example."

Jets coach Eric Mangini said he was aware of Vilma's comments and that he would talk with the player about them.

"We completely don't condone cruelty to animals on any level," Mangini said. "At some point, we probably will talk to him about that."