Roger Goodell speaks with Ben Roethlisberger
UPDATED (2:18 p.m.)...
LATROBE, Pa.--NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he chatted briefly with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at the Pittsburgh Steelers' training camp here Thursday morning and is pleased with Roethlisberger's efforts so far to comply with the terms of his six-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.
Goodell said he planned to speak with Roethlisberger again later in the day and would have a more formal meeting with Roethlisberger later this month before deciding whether to reduce Roethlisberger's suspension to as few as four games, as the terms of the suspension allow.
"I'm very encouraged by what he's doing," Goodell said. "But I'll take the period of time that I have before making the decision, and make it probably right before the regular season."
Goodell spoke to reporters on the Steelers' practice fields at Saint Vincent College. Goodell twice declined to directly answer questions by media members about whether Roethlisberger's suspension potentially could be reduced to fewer than four games. He said only that a ruling on the length of the suspension would be made later.
"We'll evaluate all that at the end of the month," Goodell said.
A league spokesman later clarified that the suspension will not be reduced to fewer than four games.
Roethlisberger said he had not been made aware of any possibility the suspension could be reduced to fewer than four games.
"If there's wiggle room below that, I'd be ecstatic," Roethlisberger said. "That's obviously the commissioner's call. That's why he is the commissioner. That would make me very happy."
Roethlisberger said he hoped to demonstrate to Goodell that he has made changes in his life that merit having the suspension reduced.
"We've had our conversations and I'm sure we'll talk some more," Roethlisberger said. "A lot of it is going to be answering questions and just making sure that he knows I'm ready to get back out there."
Goodell spoke with Steelers owner Dan Rooney, team president Art Rooney II and Coach Mike Tomlin as Roethlisberger threw passes nearby on the field during Thursday morning's practice. Roethlisberger has been splitting work in practices with Byron Leftwich, who is likely to open the season as the Steelers' starter at quarterback while Roethlisberger serves his suspension.
Goodell and Roethlisberger said they spoke briefly on the field.
"He's doing great," Goodell said. "I had a chance to chance to chat with him briefly this morning and I'll hopefully get a chance to chat with him a little bit later today. But I'm very encouraged by what I'm seeing."
Goodell was accompanied by former coach and broadcaster John Madden, who has joined Goodell on the commissioner's tour of NFL training camps. Goodell said Wednesday during his tour that Roethlisberger has so far complied with, and is even exceeding, what has been expected of him. Goodell reiterated those sentiments Thursday.
"I think he's understanding the seriousness of the issue and working to improve and to make better decisions," Goodell said. "And I think that's a very positive development... He's got to work through the program that's designed for him to help him. A lot of that is confidential. But he's done it. He's done it with enthusiasm. I think that's a good thing....
Said Roethlisberger: "I wanted to show him that I would do everything that he had asked and then some, just kind of let it be known that I wanted to get back out here as soon as I can to be with my guys."
Roethlisberger was asked what he'd done to exceed Goodell's expectations, and said: "It's the things in the community that I don't normally tell people, people don't know about. It's going and serving dinner at the Salvation Army, the Ronald McDonald House, going to the Caring Place and talking to the families. Just things that, like I've always said, that I like to keep quiet because I don't think it's about everyone knowing. But we've let him know that we've been doing those things."
Goodell said his formal meeting with Roethlisberger before a ruling on the length of the suspension is likely to be at the NFL's offices in New York. Roethlisberger met with Goodell there before the suspension was announced.
Roethlisberger's suspension was imposed in April, nine days after a prosecutor in Georgia announced that the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback would not be charged with a crime after a 20-year-old woman alleged that Roethlisberger had sexually assaulted her at a nightclub in March. Roethlisberger denied committing a crime.
He previously was accused in a civil lawsuit by a Nevada woman of sexually assaulting her in a Lake Tahoe hotel room in 2008. Roethlisberger denied the allegation and was not charged with a crime.
The NFL's personal conduct policy empowers Goodell to punish a player for conduct detrimental to the league even if the player has not been convicted of a crime.
Roethlisberger did not appeal the suspension and vowed to comply with all its terms.
He underwent a behavioral evaluation by medical experts during the offseason, as ordered by the league under the terms of his suspension. Roethlisberger missed some of the Steelers' offseason practices but was cleared by the NFL in late May to resume practicing after officials reviewed the results of his behavioral evaluation.
"He's the commissioner of the league," Roethlisberger said Thursday. "He's the boss of the bosses. He has the right to do what he feels right to make his league run the way that he wants it to be run. It's a tough job. I can't say it's easy because he's got a lot of responsibilities and a lot of people to look over. So he's doing what he feels is right."
Roethlisberger said he's working out the details of what he plans to do during his suspension, during which he will be permitted to have very little contact with the Steelers.
"I've got some ideas up my sleeve that will help me stay in shape, stay around football without breaking any rules," Roethlisberger said. "Obviously you can't do anything with the Steelers organization. Hopefully we've just got to talk with [Goodell] and make sure that he's okay with it. But we've got some good ideas that I'm sure you guys will hear about pretty soon."
Said Goodell: "I hope he'll continue to focus on himself, continue to work on what his advisers are suggesting he needs to focus on, and using that as a productive period for him."
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