Ben Roethlisberger zipped passes to his wide receivers, exchanged jokes with teammates and smiled throughout his first workout since the Pittsburgh Steelers missed out on the playoffs.
Business as usual for one of the NFL’s most accomplished quarterbacks? Hardly.
At the same time Roethlisberger was practicing for the first time this spring, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was telling a radio audience Monday that the quarterback violated the NFL’s personal-conduct policy with his “pattern of behavior” and “bad judgments.”
Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old college student in a Georgia nightclub last month. He will not face criminal charges, but Roethlisberger does face disciplinary action by the NFL, including a likely suspension, following the release of documents outlining tawdry behavior by the two-time Super Bowl winner.
“The issue here is with respect to a pattern of behavior and bad judgments,” Goodell said on the Dan Patrick radio show. “You do not have to be convicted or even charged with a crime to be able to demonstrate that you’ve violated a personal-conduct policy and reflect poorly not only on themselves, but all of their teammates, every NFL player in the league, and everyone associated with the NFL. That is what my concern is, and I have expressed that directly to Ben, obviously, and I’ll be making a decision as soon as I possibly can.”
The Steelers are anticipating a suspension lasting as many as four games that could be announced next week. Some media reports suggest that a suspension could be announced Wednesday.
The Steelers didn’t take action against Roethlisberger themselves to avoid a possible appeal from the players’ union. However, several players said the club outlined to them, during a Monday meeting with coach Mike Tomlin, a newly adopted zero-tolerance policy in which unacceptable player conduct will be dealt with harshly and swiftly.
In what apparently was the first case of that rule being implemented, former Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes was traded to the Jets for a fifth-round draft pick last week following a series of problems.
“We were told early this morning that either you get in line or you’ll get kicked out of line. You’re going to be traded or you’re not going to be here,” right tackle Willie Colon said. “If your conduct is going to play a part in you not being a good football player, they’re going to get rid of you.”
Roethlisberger also is being sued by a different woman who says he raped her in 2008 at a Lake Tahoe hotel-casino. Roethlisberger denies the accusation and was not charged. The NFL is not considering that case while weighing its punishment.