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Roethlisberger will accept disciplinary action if not 'too harsh'

UPDATED (12:10 p.m.)...

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will accept potential disciplinary action by the NFL or the Steelers without fighting the penalty if he and his advisers do not consider the discipline "too harsh," a source familiar with the situation said Monday.

That expected disciplinary action perhaps could be announced in the coming days. The source close to the deliberations said he believes an announcement could be made Wednesday. Other people within the league said Monday they didn't know when the decision might be announced, with NFL officials still going over the information they'd been given.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said on the syndicated radio show hosted by Dan Patrick that Roethlisberger has violated the league's personal conduct policy.

"Yes, there has been a violation of that," Goodell said, according to an account of the interview on ESPN's Web site. Goodell also said, according to the account: "The issue here is respect to a pattern of behavior."

Goodell declined to say during the radio show when a decision will be announced, according to the ESPN account.

Roethlisberger met for approximately two hours last Tuesday in New York with Goodell, one day after a district attorney in Georgia announced that Roethlisberger would not be charged with a crime based on an accusation by a woman that she was sexually assaulted by Roethlisberger last month at a nightclub in Milledgeville, Ga.

Art Rooney II, the president of the Steelers, said at a news conference last Thursday that the team was prepared to take disciplinary action against Roethlisberger but would work cooperatively with the league to determine the particulars of the discipline.

The NFL's personal conduct policy empowers Goodell to discipline a player as he sees fit for conduct detrimental to the league even if the player is not convicted of a crime.

Under the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players' union, a club can suspend a player for as many as four games without pay for conduct detrimental to the team.

Sources have said that a suspension of two to four games is possible. It also appears possible that Roethlisberger could be given a conditional suspension, in which he would have an opportunity to shorten the original suspension by meeting certain conditions for his reinstatement.

Yahoo Sports reported that Roethlisberger's suspension was expected to be announced Monday or Tuesday.

A source said it's not expected to be announced Monday. The NFL is scheduled to announce next season's schedule at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The three-day NFL draft is scheduled to begin Thursday evening.

Rooney said last week that he didn't expect the disciplinary action against Roethlisberger to be announced until after the NFL draft.

"There will only be one disciplinary action and it will be coordinated with the commissioner," Rooney said Thursday. "And so when we get to the point where we have agreed with the commissioner on what that action will be, that's when it will be imposed."

A 20-year-old college student accused Roethlisberger of sexually assaulting her in a bathroom at a nightclub. Frederic D. Bright, the district attorney who handled the case, said when he announced that Roethlisberger would not be charged with a crime that he could not prove Roethlisberger's guilt to jurors beyond a reasonable doubt. Roethlisberger said after the prosecutor's announcement that the right decision had been made.

Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Steelers, also has been accused in a civil lawsuit by a woman in Nevada of sexually assaulting her in a Lake Tahoe hotel room in 2008. Roethlisberger has denied that allegation and has not been charged with a crime.

Rooney said last week that he "made it clear to Ben that his conduct in this incident did not live up to our standards. We made it very clear to Ben that there will be consequences for his actions. And Ben has indicated to us that he's willing to accept those consequences."

Rooney also said that he had "informed the commissioner that the Pittsburgh Steelers are prepared to take disciplinary action at this point. However, I want to make clear that any disciplinary action will be agreed to and coordinated with the commissioner and the Pittsburgh Steelers. In other words, there will only be one disciplinary action."

Goodell sent a recent memo to NFL teams reminding them that the league's personal conduct policy requires players and other employees to do more than merely avoid committing a crime.

The Steelers re-signed veteran backup quarterback Charlie Batch this offseason. They also have young quarterback Dennis Dixon, who started a game last season while Roethlisberger was injured. Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said at last month's annual league meeting in Orlando that the Steelers would wait to make any decisions about whether they needed to further bolster the position in case Roethlisberger were to become unavailable to play next season.

By Mark Maske  |  April 19, 2010; 10:20 AM ET  | Category:  Steelers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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