Big Ben's ban has 'flexibility'

The NFL can increase the six-game suspension for Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger if new evidence of misbehavior emerges that violates its personal conduct policy.

Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the punishment after prosecutors decided not to charge Roethlisberger in a case involving a 20-year-old college student who accused him of sexually assaulting her in a Georgia nightclub last month. Roethlisberger also must undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation by professionals.

Goodell said Friday that the conduct policy allows him to revisit the ban. If evidence of other incidents is presented, “the penalty still has some flexibility,” Goodell said.

In explaining why he acted even though no criminal charges were filed against the quarterback, Goodell said:

“It’s my responsibility to protect our reputation and our integrity. That’s what the personal conduct policy is; we all have to be held to a higher standard. It specifically states you don’t have to violate the law if there is a pattern of behavior.”

Players’ pads an issue

Goodell also said the league is considering developing better pads for players. In recent years, he said players were wearing less padding and defensive lineman might be using quarterback pads, which are smaller and often not as protective. Goodell has spoken with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith about the issue.

He also expressed concern about properly fitting helmets, noting that the league addressed the issue of improperly fastened chinstraps a few years ago because too many helmets were flying off players’ heads.

Extra points

The ratings for ESPN’s first NFL draft in prime time were up 23 percent from last year. The cable network says it had a 5.3 rating and 7.2 million viewers for the first-round of the draft held Thursday night. It’s the most-viewed first round in the network’s 31-year history. … The NFL and the New Orleans Saints filed a reply to a lawsuit over the trademark rights to “Who Dat?” The reply called the lawsuit “a transparent and opportunistic effort to capitalize on the equity and popularity of the New Orleans Saints as their fans celebrate their Super Bowl victory.”