NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL is weighing possible disciplinary action against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who met with league commissioner Roger Goodell one day after learning he won’t be charged in the alleged sexual assault of a Georgia college student.
Roethlisberger described the Tuesday afternoon meeting in Manhattan as “very productive,” but gave no hint whether he expects to be suspended or fined for several off-field incidents that damaged his reputation and angered the franchise he’s led to two Super Bowl championships.
“It’s a very serious matter, one we take serious,” Roethlisberger told ESPN as he and his representatives left the meeting with Goodell.
While Roethlisberger faces no criminal charges after being accused of assaulting the 20-year-old student in a nightclub bathroom, in a separate case he also is being sued in civil court by a former Nevada hotel employee for an alleged sexual assault in 2008. No criminal charges were filed in that case.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello says the league will review the facts and will follow up with Roethlisberger and the Steelers. He gave no timeline.
Possible options include a suspension, fine or having the $102 million quarterback undergo counseling or rehabilitation.
“Commissioner Goodell met today with Ben Roethlisberger and his representatives to discuss the recent incident involving his personal conduct,” the league said in a statement. “In accordance with the league’s personal conduct policy, our office will review all the facts and follow up at the appropriate time with the Steelers and Ben.”
The team had no comment Tuesday as it awaits the NFL’s findings, and it isn’t expected to discuss the issue until the league makes its ruling.
However, the Steelers are angered with their star player’s conduct, and apparently are ready to discipline Roethlisberger even if the league doesn’t. Team president Art Rooney II was upset by the sordid details of the incident in Milledgeville, Ga., which were explained at great length during a news conference Monday by district attorney Frederic D. Bright.
“C’mon, you’re supposed to stand for something,” Bright said in criticizing one of the NFL’s best-known players. “I mean you’re a leader, you’re supposed to be a role model. You don’t need to put yourself in his position anymore.”
The Georgia prosecutor suggested that Roethlisberger “grow up” and stop taking groups of friends to bars, where his entourage stakes out a private area and invites patrons to join them.
Roethlisberger effectively agreed a few hours later, saying while reading a short statement that he planned to reshape his image and make the team’s fans proud of him again.
Roethlisberger’s appearance changed greatly in the less than 24 hours between the time he read that statement to reporters and his meeting with Goodell. He’d gotten a haircut and he wore a suit, rather than a sports shirt and slacks.
Roethlisberger is expected to join his teammates Monday for offseason practice, the first time he has taken the field since the Steelers’ season-ending victory over Miami in January.
The team’s veteran players have been involved in conditioning for several weeks, but Roethlisberger skipped those sessions to avoid being a distraction. The Steelers already will be without wide receiver Santonio Holmes, the former Super Bowl MVP who was dealt to the Jets on Sunday night for a fifth-round draft pick following a series of off-the-field problems.
While the Roethlisberger incidents likely won’t damage the Steelers monetarily — they’ve sold out every game since 1972 and have a long waiting list for season tickets — their fans clearly are unhappy with the quarterback’s troubles.
Talk shows were flooded with callers Monday and Tuesday criticizing Roethlisberger, not only for his conduct but the way he looked in reading his statement— casual attire and a long, shaggy hairstyle.
The quarterback has relatively few endorsement contracts for such a high-profile player, but he lost one Tuesday as a Pittsburgh-area food products company announced he would no longer endorse its line of beef jerky.
Roethlisberger’s diminished popularity is evident in his hometown of Findlay, Ohio, where merchants said Tuesday his jerseys and other memorabilia are sitting unsold on shelves.
“We can sell everybody else’s, but not his,” Sue Cataline said. “We can’t sell any of his stuff.”