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Roethlisberger suspended for six games

Associated Press / April 22, 2010

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The NFL cracked down on one of its stars yesterday, suspending Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the first six games of the season, even though he avoided sexual assault charges in Georgia.

The two-time Super Bowl winner was banned without pay for violating the league’s personal conduct policy and ordered to undergo a “comprehensive behavioral evaluation by professionals.’’

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the punishment a week 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 Milledgeville, Ga., nightclub last month.

“I recognize that the allegations in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you,’’ Goodell said in his letter to the six-year veteran.

“My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.’’

Goodell said team offseason activities were off limits to the quarterback until he completes the evaluation and is cleared by the league to rejoin the Steelers.

“Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare,’’ Goodell wrote.

Trade rumors immediately swirled, and while the Steelers declined to address the speculation, they were privately weighing whether they should consider dealing their franchise quarterback for a top-10 draft pick if one were offered.

Sitting out all six games would cost Roethlisberger an estimated $2.8 million of his $102 million total deal, though the penalty could be shortened to four games for good behavior.

Roethlisberger is the first player suspended by Goodell under the conduct policy who hasn’t been arrested or charged with a crime.

Vikings sign Sheppard
The Vikings signed nine-year veteran cornerback Lito Sheppard, who was released by the Jets last month after one disappointing, injury-impacted season. He played seven years for the Eagles, during which he was a two-time Pro Bowl selection . . . Former Dolphins star Jason Taylor officially signed a two-year contract with the Jets. Taylor said he was hoping for an offer from the Dolphins that never came, and after vacationing in Costa Rica last weekend decided to join the Jets . . . The Jaguars traded defensive end Quentin Groves to the Raiders for an undisclosed draft pick . . . Tight end Michael Matthews was claimed off waivers by the Bills, one day after he was released by the Lions.

Corey Dillon arrested
Former Patriots running back Corey Dillon was arrested for investigation of driving under the influence in Southern California, deputies said. Dillon, 35, driving a red, 2010 Chevrolet Camaro with paper license plates, was stopped shortly before 4 a.m. on Mulholland Drive near Malibu after two deputies noticed a car driving slowly behind them. The deputies stopped Dillon to verify the paper plates . . . Colts president Bill Polian said the team will not discipline defensive tackle Eric Foster, who faces a sexual assault lawsuit. A 22-year-old hotel receptionist is suing Foster, claiming he sexually assaulted her in his room at an Indianapolis hotel before the AFC Championship game Jan. 24 . . . Reggie Bush reportedly reached an out-of-court settlement with a fledgling sports marketer who is trying to recoup nearly $300,000 in cash and gifts the star running back and his family allegedly accepted while he played at the University of Southern California.

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