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Ben Roethlisberger suspended for six games [Updated]

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Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been suspended by the NFL for six games without pay for violating the league's personal conduct policy, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Wednesday.

Roethlisberger also must undergo "comprehensive behavioral evaluation by medical professionals." The suspension could be reduced to four games for good behavior after the behavioral evaluation is completed.

In March a 20-year-old college student accused Roethlisberger of sexually assaulting her in a Georgia nightclub, but prosecutors last week decided not to charge Roethlisberger in the case.

[Updated, 11:00 a.m.: "I recognize that the allegations in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you," Goodell said in a letter to Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger is not allowed to attend any team offseason activities until that behavioral evaluation is completed. Sitting out all six games would cost him an estimated $2.8 million.]

The Steelers, who were preparing for a suspension of as many as eight games, reacquired quarterback Byron Leftwich from Tampa Bay on Tuesday night for a seventh-round draft pick. Leftwich is expected to compete with third-year quarterback Dennis Dixon to start during Roethlisberger's suspension.

Roethlisberger is a two-time Super Bowl winner and the highest-paid player in Steelers history with a $102-million contract. He also is being sued in a civil case by a Nevada hotel employee who has accused him of sexually assaulting her in 2008.

Roethlisberger did not talk with reporters after practicing with the Steelers on Monday and Tuesday.

[Updated, 11:30 a.m.: The Pennsylvania State Police said Wednesday that Trooper Ed Joyner would not be allowed to continue to work as Roethlisberger's personal assistant because he was there when the quarterback was accused of sexual assault.]

[Updated, 12:15 p.m.: More quotes from Goodell's letter to Roethlisberger:

-- "My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans."

-- "Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare."

-- "In your six years in the NFL, you have first thrilled and now disappointed a great many people. I urge you to take full advantage of this opportunity to get your life and career back on track."]

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Ben Roethlisberger practices with the Steelers on Monday. Credit: Jared Wickerham / Getty Images.

 
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