As most people expected, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the decision today to reduce the six-game suspension he levied against Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger(notes) to four games. Roethlisberger, who was allowed to practice with the team and play in the preseason, will not be allowed to visit the team facility, interact with Steelers coaches or football operations personnel during his suspension, or even talk with his teammates about league or football matters. He will not be able to practice with the team, attend games, or represent the organization in any way. Reports indicate that Roethlisberger will work with an independent quarterbacks coach and throw to free-agent receivers. The four-week ban is good news in a way for the Steelers, who lost quarterback Byron Leftwich(notes) to a torn left MCL in the preseason finale.
Yahoo! Sports has learned from Bob McLaughlin of Steelers flagship station www.fox970.com that Roethlisberger broke down as he talked with teammates in the locker room after the Steelers' Thursday night 19-3 win over the Carolina Panthers. "Between the finality of the suspension, and the knowledge that the team will be down another quarterback with Leftwich's injury, there were a lot of emotional guys in that locker room," McLaughlin said.
Roethlisberger was originally suspended by the NFL for a violation of the league's personal conduct policy as the result of events that allegedly took place in a Milledgeville, Ga. bar on March 5. Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a woman after a night of drinking in the bar, though he was not charged, Goodell made the call to suspend Roethlisberger after charges were dropped. The quarterback and the Commissioner met at the league's New York offices on Friday morning, and Goodell reduced the suspension based on Roethlisberger's behavior after the alleged incident.
[Photos: More images of the Steelers quarterback]
"I'm very encouraged by what he's doing," Goodell said at Steelers training camp on Aug. 5. "He hasn't just done what he's been told to do, I think he's worked hard to really try to improve and focus on himself and understand what he's been through and what he's going to do differently going forward. I think that's a very positive thing ... He's got to work through the program that's designed for him to help him. A lot of that is confidential, but he's done it and he's done it with enthusiasm. I think that's a good thing."
"Ben has done a good job this summer of growing as the person that he needs to be, both on and off the field," Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a team-released statement. "I am confident that Ben is committed to continuing in this positive direction. As a team, our focus is now on preparing for the regular season and getting off to a good start on opening weekend."
"I have learned a lot over the past several months about myself as a person," Roethlisberger added in his own statement. "I am committed to continuing on this path of being the type of person my family raised me to be, and exceeding what is expected of me as the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers."
The league will obviously be watching Roethlisberger through those four games, and any slip-up would put the reduction in jeopardy.
Pittsburgh faces the Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Baltimore Ravens in their first four games. Roethlisberger will rejoin the team for their week 5 bye, and the Steelers will begin their season with their franchise quarterback at home against the Cleveland Browns on October 17.
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