Roger Goodell Can Increase Ben Roethlisberger’s Suspension If New Evidence Emerges

Roger Goodell Can Increase Ben Roethlisberger's Suspension If New Evidence Emerges NEW YORK — NFL commissioner
Roger Goodell has flexibility to change the six-game suspension for
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger if new evidence of misbehavior
emerges.

The NFL 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 Friday at his
annual session with the Associated Press Sports Editors that the
league's player conduct penalty allows him to revisit the ban he gave
the Pittsburgh star earlier this week. Goodell also defended the right
to do so.

"It's my responsibility to
protect our reputation and our integrity," Goodell said. "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 is any kind of pattern, and we
have enough information to believe he's not making sound judgments at
critical points."

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."

Goodell said he wouldn't deal
in hypotheticals regarding further reports of misconduct by the
two-time Super Bowl winner, who will forfeit more than $2.8 million in
salary. Roethlisberger can't attend team activities until he has been
cleared by the people administering the behavioral evaluation.

But if evidence of other incidents is presented, "the penalty still has some flexibility," Goodell said.

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