On the same day Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned to work out with his teammates, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that he plans to further investigate, analyze and discuss Roethlisberger's conduct before he decides in "the near future" whether to punish him for his off-field behavior.
Roethlisberger had not participated in spring workouts while he awaited a ruling in Georgia on a sexual assault claim against him. Prosecutors announced Monday that they would not pursue the case. Roethlisberger then met Tuesday with Goodell in New York City to discuss matters, including what happened in Georgia.
Goodell, in Pittsburgh Wednesday night to help honor Steelers owner and patriarch Dan Rooney at an AFL-CIO banquet at the Westin Convention Center hotel, Downtown, said he hoped the New York meeting helped Roethlisberger better grasp the gravity of the conduct code across the league.
"We met for a couple of hours. We had a good discussion," Goodell said of the three-hour meeting a day after the local district attorney announced that he wasn't going to file charges in a Milledgeville, Ga., bar incident investigated as a sexual assault. "I think he understands how important the Personal Conduct Policy is to the NFL. And I hope he has a better understanding of how important it is for everybody in the league.
"We'll continue to gather more information. We'll continue to have that analysis done. And we'll consider it, and we'll make a decision in the near future. I don't know if I'd say there's a normal time [period]. We like to be thorough. We like to be sure we fully understand it. We've talked to, obviously, the player. We'll talk to the Players Association. I think anytime you can get more input into the various factors that are going on, the better decision you'll make.
"What you've got to do is, understand that we have a very high standard of conduct for everybody involved with the NFL, whether it's a player, a coach or the commissioner. And that we all are all held to that high standard. It's something that I believe in firmly. We owe that to our fans. We owe that to our partners. And it's something we'll continue to reinforce."
Goodell declined to discuss what type of penalty he is considering.
Rooney, who received the AFL-CIO's Pennsylvania Citizen of the Year award, also declined to discuss the "serious matter" surrounding his star quarterback.
Rooney offered simply, "Everybody makes mistakes.
"My job is in Ireland," added Rooney, now the U.S. ambassador to that country, indicating that the team in his absence is run by his son, president Art Rooney II, along with coach Mike Tomlin and director of player personnel Kevin Colbert. "I would just say that it's a serious matter. And it's being handled properly with Art, Mike and Kevin Colbert. I think they're handling it very well. The commissioner as you know saw Ben [in New York Tuesday]. I don't have any more to say."
Asked about the general behavior his family expects from Steelers, Rooney -- standing with state AFL-CIO officers, his son, Jim, and Steelers backup quarterback Charlie Batch -- said: "I think the players have to be special. And we have a special man here in Charlie, what he's done, what his foundation does as far as children in this community is exemplary. That's the way it should be. Everybody makes mistakes. But I don't even want to talk about that."
Roethlisberger still faces a civil lawsuit filed against him in Nevada last year by a woman who says he sexually assaulted her in a hotel room. Roethlisberger has counter-sued the woman in that case and has not been charged with a crime.
Steelers veterans have been working out together since March 29. Tomlin will have his first two practices -- or organized team activities -- Monday and Tuesday, and Roethlisberger is expected to participate.
The quarterback did not speak to reporters Wednesday.