NFL suspends Roethlisberger for 4-6 games

After the second time Pittsburgh Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger escaped charges following allegations of sexual assault, Big Ben didn’t have as much luck with the NFL Commissioner.  Roger Goodell suspended Roethlisberger for a minimum of four games while demanding the Steeler star get “comprehensive behavioral evaluation” from medical professionals, with his return to the game dependent on his cooperation.  Goodell also blasted Roethlisberger for his actions:

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games without pay Wednesday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy and ordered to undergo behavioral evaluation.

Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the punishment a week 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 in March.

Goodell said the league’s conduct policy gave him the right to impose discipline regardless of whether he broke the law. …

“My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.”

Roethlisberger must undergo a “comprehensive behavioral evaluation by medical professionals” and may not attend any team offseason activities until that evaluation is completed.

What does that mean for Roethlisberger? If he cooperates and gets his evaluation — and presumably acts to change his behavior — he can work out with the team and get prepared for his return after a four-game suspension. If Roethlisberger fights it or procrastinates, he won’t get in regular-season shape and may have to sit as long as six weeks, or perhaps longer. Goodell’s decision really leaves the question of Roethlisberger’s return to the judgment of the Commissioner’s office, as CNN analysts Chuck Roberts and Ryan Smith discuss:

Will the Steelers dump Roethlisberger like they did with their other Super Bowl hero, Santonio Holmes? I rather doubt it, for the usual reasons. Star QBs with Roethlisberger’s talent and durability don’t come along often, while speedy and talented wide receivers are a little easier to replace. At the moment, his trade value isn’t terribly high anyway. Despite their efforts to maintain their family-friendly image, they’re probably going to stick with Big Ben, unless he refuses to change his ways.

Goodell did the right thing in this regard — and if Roethlisberger’s smart, he’ll realize that this benefits him in the long run. If he makes a public effort to change and doesn’t get in any more trouble, this gives him an opportunity to gain forgiveness from fans and put both incidents behind him. Of course, this is a man who rides motorcycles without a helmet and didn’t learn a lesson from the first such incident, so it may wind up being a moot point.