Goodell can add to suspension of Roethlisberger
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 yesterday at his annual session with Associated Press Sports Editors that the conduct policy allows him to revisit the ban, announced earlier this week. 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.
"We go back through all the incidents and try to understand is there any kind of pattern, and we have enough information to believe he's not making sound judgments at critical points."
A two-time Super Bowl winner, Roethlisberger also is being sued by a woman who accused him of raping her at a Lake Tahoe hotel-casino in 2008. He denied the allegation and wasn't charged. He is the first player suspended by Goodell under the conduct policy who hasn't been arrested or charged with a crime.
"First, as a league, we rely on our credibility for acceptance with our public," Goodell said. "The integrity of the game and people participating in it is a critical element.
"Second, protection of our brand. It reflects poorly on our brand.
"That's why everyone came together to strengthen our policy years ago to make certain we keep that high standard."
Roethlisberger, who stands to lose more than $2.8 million in salary, can't attend team activities until he has been cleared by the league, based on the outcome of his evaluation.
BIG BEN'S NAME OFF ZOO EXHIBIT
Disgraced Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been traded for NHL Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux — at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.
Roethlisberger's name has been replaced with Lemieux's on a display that compares the height of elephants with other creatures.
Zoo spokeswoman Tracy Gray says some zoo visitors had expressed concerns about Roethlisberger's name on the display. She says Lemieux, the retired Pittsburgh Penguins star and team owner, is well-known and approximately the same height as Roethlisberger, about 6-foot-5.
NFL DRAFT RATINGS
FIRST ROUND ON ESPN UP 23 PERCENT
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 at Radio City Music Hall in New York. It's the most-viewed first round in the network's 31-year history.
There were 32 selections in the first round.
Coverage of last year's draft started at 4 p.m. (Eastern time) on a Saturday and had a 4.3 rating.
ESPN says the draft ranked as the fifth most-watched cable program of the year. The highest-rated markets were Jacksonville, Fla., (10.9) and New Orleans (10.8).
The NFL Network posted an overnight rating of 0.95.
The ratings represent the percentage of all households with televisions tuned into a program.
The second and third rounds were held yesterday with the final four rounds today.