NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was at Steeler training camp today. He talked to the media about Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension for an excruciating seven minutes. Goodell was terse, standoffish, and dismissive.
So, basically, even though it’s only training camp, the Commish is in mid-season form by his personality standards.
Aside from continuing his pattern of being a surly porcupine to deal with, the commissioner also cemented his reputation for sticking his finger up in the air in an effort to figure out which way the wind is blowing.
Goodell has stated on two occasions this week that the Steeler quarterback had taken great strides towards getting his suspension reduced from six games.
Initially Goodell had stated that if Big Ben was on his best behavior between now and the end of training camp the prospect existed that he could shave two weeks off that suspension, thus making #7 eligible to play in the Steelers fifth game on October the 17th in Cleveland.
But this week Goodell has been so effusive in his praise of Roethlisberger’s personal rehab (Goodell has previous spoken about his opinion that Roethlisberger has gone “above and beyond“ what was asked of him to better himself off the field), fans began wondering if Goodell may cut another week or two off that penalty.
The commissioner was asked that very question today in Latrobe. “I’ll make that decision at the end of the month,” said Goodell, “That (6-to-4 games) is how it was designed and that’s how we will evaluate it at the end of the month.”
Goodell gave exactly the same response to a similar question moments later. It seemed as if Goodell was intentionally leaving the door open to the prospect of Roethlisberger’s return in fewer than four games.
But moments after his press conference ended, representatives from both the NFL and the Steelers were falling all over themselves to state that Roethlisberger won’t return before 10/17. Media relations reps for both the team and the league stated that Goodell, quoting here, “can’t reduce the suspension to fewer than four games.”
That’s simply not true. Goodell can do whatever he wants when it comes to discipline. If nothing else has become clear throughout this whole muddled Roethlisberger fiasco, that fact has.
Michael Vick gets nothing for violating terms of his probation. Vince Young also gets no punishment for getting into a strip club fight. Yet Ben Roethlisberger got six games on the sidelines for serving shots to an underage girl in Georgia.
Hey, believe what you want about what Roethlisberger did…or didn’t… do in Milledgeville. The only transgression cited in Goodell’s disciplinary letter Roethlisberger was that very complaint.
The letter went out of its way to state that Roethlisberger wasn’t charged with anything in Georgia. The correspondence never even mentioned the case in Reno, Nv.
So let’s be clear: Goodell doesn’t need anybody else’s permission to reduce Big Ben’s suspension. He is autonomous. He is dictatorial. He is all powerful. He could unilaterally eliminate the suspension all together if he wanted.
“From a power perspective, that’s my understanding. He could reduce it if he wants,” said Steeler President Art Rooney II. “But he’s always communicated to us that the suspension wouldn’t be reduced beyond four games.”
Roethlisberger seemed surprised and excited at open ended nature of those statements from the NFL‘s czar. “My understanding is the suspension is 6-to-4 games. If there is wiggle room beyond that, I’d be ecstatic. But that’s the commissioner’s call. That’s why he is the commissioner. But that would make me…very happy.”
Goodell is doing now what he did before suspending Roethlisberger back in April. He’s letting the pot simmer. He’s waiting to see what public sentiment exists.
Goodell wanted to wallop Roethlisberger with a big punishment, even if the district attorney in Georgia didn’t. So for a few weeks Goodell talked tough about possible discipline for Ben, and waited for the reaction to his statements made from his throne.
What he got was vehement anti-Roethlisberger sentiment from the city of Pittsburgh and well beyond. So when prosecutors in Milledgeville passed on taking a run at Roethlisberger, Goodell gladly brought the hammer down.
Now that time has passed and apparently wounds are healing between Roethlisberger and his formerly adoring public, Goodell is once again waiting to see how the media and the fans bite on the hook he has baited regarding an even further reduction of the initially watered down four week low point.
This is part of the reason why Goodell is such a detestable personality.
Basically the emperor is listening to the mob. He acts on his own. But he can’t think for himself. Ironic isn’t it? With leadership like that, now wonder the NFL is facing such enormous labor problems after this year.