This was initially going to be a column on the idea of suspending without charge, but since Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is now facing a warrant for arrest for obstruction of justice for his alleged part in the murder of a Boston man last week, that idea lessens in impact.
It doesn't erase the questions associated with the NFL, and how its discipline-based commissioner plans to deal with Hernandez's suspected, if not yet confirmed, involvement with the incidents of that night.
Roethlisberger was accused twice - but never formally charged - for sexual assault. The first alleged incident took place in Reno, Nev., with the second allegation stemming from an alleged incident in Milledgeville, Ga.
In wake of the second accusation, Roethlisberger was suspended for six games (it was later reduced to four) in the 2010 season, and to this day, he has no criminal record as the result of those accusations.
A man is dead, and it's trivial to ask what the NFL plans to do about Hernandez. But far less meaningful questions have been asked in regards to lesser important situations. Odin Lloyd,
Roethlisberger's suspension came approximately seven weeks from when the second accusation surfaced. Now, with a warrant out for Hernandez's arrest for obstruction of justice (he's accused of intentionally destroying his home security system as well as destroying his cell phone), and his formal charging imminent, it would seem an appropriate time for Goodell to conduct his own investigation - the results of those can be used against the accused player without cross-examination, as per the power given to Goodell in the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2011.
Just ask the New Orleans Saints how reliable Goodell's investigations can be.
It doesn't even really seem like Goodell's Gestapo will have to break much of a sweat. In writing, Goodell has the authority to suspend players based on violations of the player personal conduct policy, which includes violations of the law.
Hernandez does not need to be convicted, even though he's certainly facing long odds of beating the charges in the Court of Public Opinion. Blatant destruction of monitoring devices, as well as multiple accounts connecting Hernandez and two others with the victim the night of his murder, give Goodell the same cause to believe even what hasn't been charged yet - or, exactly the same situation he faced with Roethlisberger.
Many people were alarmed - if not outraged - when upon the conclusion of the Spygate investigation, Goodell had all evidence destroyed. While there's some wisdom in simply trying to bury it after the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick were punished, that lingering feeling of favoritism still has a burning ember or two.
Goodell's failure to act in a swift and aggressive manner, as he did with Roethlisberger, would be another example of the league's commissioner, arguably the most powerful person in sports, legislating from the bench, and failing to clearly define where the proverbial line is drawn.