Big Ben practices; Steelers tell team to 'get in line' or get out
Apr 19, 2010
Ben Roethlisberger practiced Monday with the Pittsburgh Steelers, with several players saying they were warned that misconduct will not be tolerated. One added they were told to "get in line" or "get kicked out of line."
Roethlisberger was on the field a week after learning he will not be charged by Georgia prosecutors for sexual assault. The quarterback did not speak to reporters after practice.
The NFL said Monday there is no timetable for a decision on possible punishment, although the Steelers expect the league to act next week. Commissioner Roger Goodell declined to publicly verify reports that he may decide Tuesday or Wednesday, but confirmed to the Dan Patrick Radio Show that there has been a violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy.
"Yes, there has been a violation of that," Goodell said. "The issue here is respect to a pattern of behavior ... bad judgments."
At a meeting before the Steelers' Monday practice, multiple players said they were told the team now has a zero-tolerance policy regarding misconduct. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes, the MVP of the Steelers' Super Bowl victory in February 2009, was traded to the Jets for a fifth-round draft pick last week following a series of problems.
"We were told early this morning that either you get in line or you'll get kicked out of line — you're going to be traded or you're not going to be here," right tackle Willie Colon said. "If your conduct is going to play a part in you not being a good football player, they're going to get rid of you."
Coach Mike Tomlin denied delivering such a message, but defensive end Aaron Smith confirmed remarks were made to the Steelers "as a group."
"Guys took it different ways, depending on how they interpreted it, but I think ... after what we've seen go on, there's not going to be much tolerance for stuff around here," Smith said.
This was a voluntary practice for the Steelers, their first since they concluded a 9-7 season in January. Roethlisberger also participated in off-the-field conditioning work for several days last week.
The quarterback had been accused by a college student of sexual assault in March. Team president Art Rooney II said the Steelers were ready to punish the quarterback, but declined to do so because such action could be contested by the players' union.
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