If you need any more evidence of what a headache Ben Roethlisberger has been for the NFL, commissioner Roger Goodell’s provided it today in comments to Sports Illustrated that were unusually harsh on one of the game’s stars — and seemingly timed for maximum impact.
The commissioner chose the week before the Super Bowl, when Roethlisberger’s Pittsburgh Steelers play the Green Bay Packers, to reveal that none of the quarterback’s teammates were willing to stick up for Big Ben during an investigation by the commissioner’s office last year.
It’s highly unusual (and maybe improper) for the commissioner to reveal such a scoop about a player under any circumstances — even more so when the star quarterback and his team are in the national spotlight. It seems to be an effort to put an exclamation point on the league’s disapproval of Roethlisberger.
Goodell’s investigation came after Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault — charges that were later dropped. But the quarterback was still suspended for six games (later reduced to four) under the league’s personal conduct policies. Goodell interviewed about two dozen of Roethlisberger's Steelers teammates before meting out the punishment, but none were willing to defend him:
"Not one, not a single player, went to his defense. It wasn't personal in a sense, but all kinds of stories like, 'He won't sign my jersey,'" he said.
The commissioner, who has made improving off-field conduct a major priority, said he "doesn't feel any connection" with the former Pro Bowl quarterback.
Regardless of Goodell's motives for revealing what he heard, it's nothing less than shocking that Roethlisberger received so little support from within his own locker room.
Imagine if your boss called you into his or her office to ask about a coworker: "So, what do you think about Dan? I'm doing an investigation into his conduct and am trying to get a sense for how folks feel about him as a person." Unless you actively disliked Dan, wouldn't you try to put at least a decent gloss on things, knowing that he might be in trouble? There's usually some level of solidarity among employees, even ones who aren't particularly close, when it comes to dealings with managers. That Roethlisberger's teammates were willing to throw him under the bus like this suggests he just isn't a very good guy, and that certainly comports with what we've seen of him so far.
Then again, I'm trying not to get too moralistic about my preference for Super Bowl winner given that the Packers have had issues of their own.