Goodell: Roethlisberger violated policy

Updated: April 20, 2010, 2:26 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said during a radio show appearance Monday that Ben Roethlisberger violated the league's personal conduct policy, but would not confirm reports on when he will announce discipline for the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback.

During an interview on "The Dan Patrick Show," Goodell -- asked by Patrick whether there has been a violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy -- replied, "Yes, there has been a violation of that."

"The issue here is with respect to a pattern of behavior and bad judgments," Goodell said on Patrick's radio program. "You do not have to be convicted or even charged of 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. And that is what my concern is, and I have expressed that directly to Ben, obviously, and I will be making a decision as soon as I possibly can."

Last week, prosecutors in Georgia declined to charge Roethlisberger after a college student accused him of sexual assault in March. Goodell could still fine and/or suspend Roethlisberger under the league's personal conduct policy. Even if he is suspended, the quarterback could practice and take part in preseason games.

Goodell is likely to issue Roethlisberger a conditional suspension -- the same approach he took in disciplining Michael Vick following Vick's release from prison and return to football -- a source familiar with Goodell's options told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen. The source could not define the length of the penalty Goodell is considering.

Under the conditions being considered, the league would monitor Roethlisberger's behavior once the suspension begins, as well as recommendations from clinical specialists who are expected to evaluate whether Roethlisberger requires counseling and random testing for substance abuse, the source said.

The league also could use the period of the conditional suspension to determine whether there is any prior conduct by the quarterback that merits stronger disciplinary action.

Goodell told "The Dan Patrick Show" that he needed time to review all the facts in the case. "Obviously there are disputes about the facts that occurred that night, but that is something that we take very seriously, and our players should not put themselves in those positions," he said.

Yahoo! Sports reported that a suspension was expected to be announced Monday or Tuesday. But a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that the league will not discipline Roethlisberger on Monday. The source said he would be "very surprised" if the discipline were announced Tuesday.

When asked on "The Dan Patrick Show" about reports that a decision could be announced Monday or Tuesday, Goodell would not commit to a timeline. "I make the decision when I have all the information and I'm prepared to do so," he said.

Team president Art Rooney II says the Steelers are ready to punish the quarterback.

Goodell's original timetable, as related to Rooney, was based on the expectation the league would not have full access to the investigative files until this week, sources told Mortensen. But last week's release of the investigation data by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has allowed Goodell, NFL security chief Milt Ahlerich and NFL legal counsel to analyze the information.

A member of the NFL's security department spoke on Monday with authorities involved with the investigation in Georgia, in an effort to determine the credibility of statements given by people who were around Roethlisberger and his accuser on the day of the incident, a source told ESPN's Kelly Naqi.

In 2009, Goodell issued Vick a six-game conditional suspension that was reduced to two games by the start of the season. Vick returned to football after serving a federal prison sentence for financing a dogfighting ring in Virginia.

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 criminally charged in that case. He has claimed counterdamages in a lawsuit.

On Monday, Roethlisberger took part in the Steelers' first day of voluntary on-field practices. He also participated in off-field conditioning work for several days last week.

Multiple players said that at a meeting before practice, they were told the Steelers now have a zero-tolerance policy regarding misconduct. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes, the MVP of the Steelers' Super Bowl victory in February 2009, who is suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy, was traded to the Jets for a fifth-round draft pick last week following a series of off-field incidents,

"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, who reportedly accompanied Roethlisberger on the trip to Georgia, said after Monday's workout. "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."

Tomlin met with players before practice, and that's where players said the message was delivered. The coach, however, denied making those remarks.

Tomlin rarely discusses issues he addresses with his players. But defensive end Aaron Smith confirmed remarks were made to the Steelers "as a group."

"Guys took it different ways, depending on how they interpreted it, but I think ... after what we've seen go on, there's not going to be much tolerance for stuff around here," Smith said.

While Roethlisberger's teammates realize they might start the season without the quarterback who led them to double-digit wins in four of the past six seasons, most are supporting him. None has publicly rebuked him.

"He's a fun guy, likes to joke around and have a good time, he's easy to get along with, I've never had any problems with him," Smith said. "Like a big kid, kind of, hanging out."

Several were confused by the latest accusations, which they said don't mesh with the Roethlisberger they know.

"It's not as if Ben is just some crazy [guy], an enemy or just a person who's so terrible," said wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, who rejoined the Steelers after four seasons with Washington. "We're dealing with it, we have dealt with it and we're moving on. It's better now, certainly, than during the season."

Randle El also said: "Some of us have had the same situations; they just didn't come to light. We can't point the finger at everyone." He did not elaborate.

Although some Steelers fans are calling for Roethlisberger to be traded -- the team has had no known discussions of that kind -- Smith can't imagine why the team wouldn't want to keep him.

"Wouldn't you?" Smith said. "The man's a great quarterback; I mean he comes out there and he wins games. And that's what we're in the business of doing, winning games."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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