Goodell can’t take much joy in being known as the NFL’s law-and-order commissioner. What the label implies is the league has a pressing and continuing need for a disciplinary czar like him, and moves like the come-to-Jesus talk Goodell summoned Roethlisberger to Tuesday at NFL headquarters in New York.
After facing two sexual assault accusations in the past eight months and learning only Monday that he had slipped criminal charges for a second time, Roethlisberger certainly looks like a man who desperately needs an intervention. He has for awhile.
At this point, some heavy punishment seems in order — nothing less than a two-game suspension and orders from Goodell and the Steelers to undergo a substance-abuse program since both incidents involved alcohol use, sound about right. Goodell has that power under the NFL’s personal conduct code and he should use it.
If Roethlisberger has even a fraction of the common sense he’s displayed on the football field while winning two Super Bowl titles, the 28-year-old quarterback should realize he’s just about down to his last chance with the Steelers and a city that was fully prepared to love him from the moment he hit town.
Instead, the more successful Roethlisberger has gotten, the worse he’s behaved — ignoring well-meaning advice from past Steelers icons like Cowher and Bradshaw about riding his motorcycle without a helmet before he nearly died in a crash, bristling last season when his all-pro receiver Ward questioned his commitment to the team, drinking robustly and acting crudely in various bars and clubs over the years until he left the lingering impression that, if nothing else, his arrogance is off the charts.
But even Roethlisberger has to recognize he looks one bad incident away from becoming a Rust-Belt version of Michael Vick, another numbskull NFL star whose behavior was so repulsive it finally overrode the fact that he was a franchise quarterback whose sudden absence would wreck his team on the field for years to come.
The $102-million contract Roethlisberger signed two years ago and the fact he plays quarterback are probably the only reasons the Steelers didn’t ship him out of town in the middle of the night as they did fellow Super Bowl hero Santonio Holmes on Sunday, shipping him off for the giveaway price of a fifth-round draft choice from the Jets after Holmes violated the NFL’s substance-abuse policy a third time.
Bright’s announcement that Roethlisberger would not be prosecuted for the latest sexual assault allegations against him was no cause for celebration.
Bright, district attorney for Georgia’s Ocmulgee judicial district said it was his professional judgment that he couldn’t make a criminal case against Roethlisberger beyond a reasonable doubt.
But the details that Bright methodically laid out — all from a month-long police investigation into what happened the night of March 4th in a Milledgeville, Ga., college bar where Roethlisberger followed a 20-year-old, highly intoxicated sorority girl into a dingy one-toilet bathroom near the end of a long night of hard partying — were mortifying. The female “victim” — Bright’s term — emerged with a laceration, bruises and some bleeding. Her friends took her to a nearby hospital but a rape kit DNA test turned out to be inconclusive.
It’s fair to ask what kind of man — let alone anyone with as much to lose as Roethlisberger — would put himself in such a position, especially when he’s already being sued for an alleged sexual assault in Nevada?
Bright suggested this kind of guy: “My advice to him would be to grow up,” Bright said, noting “something happened” in that bathroom.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Then Monday, Bradshaw told reporters his past attempts to advise Roethlisberger were met with such coldness that “our relationship is not good.”
“When I told him to park the motorcycle he got pissed,” Bradshaw said. “Then he had the accident. Since then he doesn’t like me. And I’m learning not to like him.”
Roethlisberger was lucky to survive the motorcycle crash. He looks lucky now, too.
So if it takes some punishment by Goodell to finally smack some sense into Roethlisberger and scare him straight, Roethlisberger should realize things could be far worse. Having the law-and-order commissioner mad at you is a damn sight better than having some real policemen coming for you again.
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