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Roethlisberger suspension looks likely

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By Carl Prine and Scott Brown
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — The quarterback famous for the seven-step drop may get tackled as early as today by the National Football League. When Ben Roethlisberger goes down and how much time he loses are the questions remaining.

"We are not ruling out this week. We have a great deal of info, more than in most cases," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday.

Aiello insisted he was not "given a timetable for a decision and announcement." He said Roethlisberger will be told first, and then the Steelers, before the public.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell believes the two-time Super Bowl champ violated the league's Personal Conduct Policy during a booze-fueled visit to this sleepy college town on March 5, a night that ended with a 20-year-old student accusing Roethlisberger of rape.

Roethlisberger, 28, was not arrested or charged, and Goodell acknowledged publicly that allegations remain in dispute.

But Aiello said bylaws under the collective bargaining agreement allow the commissioner to address conduct that imposes "inherent danger to the safety and well-being" of another person and that which "undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation" of the NFL, its players or its franchises.

NFL investigators last week received the initial four volumes of the joint Milledgeville Police Department and Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime report on the Roethlisberger matter.

On Monday, NFL investigators spoke at length by telephone with GBI Special Agent in Charge Tom Davis and bureau agents.

"NFL, they were interested in the allegations about the serving of alcohol to minors, the credibility of some of the witness statements and things like that," Davis said.

NFL investigators appeared interested in videotaped statements of the accuser, her friends, members of Roethlisberger's entourage and others tied to the matter. The tapes are scheduled for public release Monday.

They include photos of Roethlisberger and those who partied with him in the VIP room of the Capital City nightclub, where the incident happened. Asked whether the photographs appear to show Roethlisberger intoxicated, as witnesses described him, Davis said they were "interesting" but withheld comment until the images are made public.

"We are always thorough and fair," Aiello said.

Under the NFL labor agreement, Roethlisberger would be the first player to face suspension without being arrested, indicted or convicted.

"The biggest thing about it is, you want it to be consistent," Steelers free safety Ryan Clark said. "I think it's always a tough situation when one person has so much power. You look at the decisions Roger Goodell makes; who does he really have to answer to• It's himself. The biggest thing is to be consistent, for guys to know, 'If I do this, this is what I get.'"

"I like it, but I think sometimes too much is left up to Goodell. I don't know how he does that," Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El said about how Goodell determines a player's punishment for personal conduct violations. "I don't know if he goes back and looks at (past) situations, but it's like whatever he says kind of goes. ... You just wish it was a little different."

Offensive lineman Max Starks said that Goodell might apply a strict standard to situations involving players that aren't clear — such as allegations against Roethlisberger that a prosecutor said couldn't be proven in court.

"Not everything is hard and dry," Starks said.

Starks, Randle El, Clark and other Steelers said players must act responsibly and conduct themselves as good ambassadors of the team, the city and the sport.

"To tell you the truth, I've never even read the policy," linebacker James Farrior said. "I really don't know what the policy consists of. I just know how I am, and as long as you're doing what you're supposed to be doing, you don't even have to worry about stuff like that."

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