NEW YORK (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger’s six-game suspension likely will be shortened to four games by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after the two meet in New York on Friday.
Goodell has said he will make his decision after the preseason concludes. The Steelers play Carolina on Thursday night. Although the NFL has not confirmed the exact location or time for the meeting, Roethlisberger is expected to meet Goodell at league headquarters.
Roethlisberger was suspended in April under the league’s personal conduct policy and the quarterback is not eligible to return until Oct. 31 at New Orleans. However, Goodell stipulated in the suspension that it could be reduced if Roethlisberger behaves well and undergoes counseling. The commissioner indicated when he met with Roethlisberger earlier in August that Roethlisberger was on the right track.
Should the suspension be reduced to four games, Roethlisberger would return on Oct. 17 against Cleveland.
Roethlisberger cannot practice once the season starts and his suspension begins.
The Steelers were heartened last month when Goodell said Roethlisberger was going “above and beyond” what the league asked him to do since the two-time Super Bowl winner was accused of, but not charged with, sexually assaulting a Georgia college student. The quarterback has stayed out of trouble since the March incident, and he spent considerable time during training camp interacting with the team’s fans.
“I’m very encouraged by what he’s doing,” Goodell said at Steelers training camp. “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.”
Asked what the league still needs to see, Goodell said, “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.”
Goodell often has been asked if Roethlisberger’s suspension could be reduced even further, and the quarterback’s representatives plan to seek just that. But league officials have said the commissioner’s April 21 ruling specified a minimum suspension of four games.
Goodell’s office has kept in frequent contact with Steelers ownership — the Rooney family has one of the most respected organizations in the league — in regard to Roethlisberger. Publicly, the team has been mum.
Roethlisberger also is being sued in Nevada by a woman who says he sexually assaulted her there in 2008. There were no charges brought in that case.
His attorney has denied he did anything wrong in Georgia, where Roethlisberger owns a lake house near Milledgeville, where the March 5 incident took place.
AP Sports Writer Alan Robinson in Pittsburgh contributed to this story.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.