For the second time in a year, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is being accused of sexual misconduct, with police investigating him Saturday for an alleged assault at a nightclub in Milledgeville, Ga.
Police were examining the claim of a 20-year-old student, who told an officer that Roethlisberger sexually assaulted her early Friday. The police department had no plans to comment further until Monday at the earliest.
The case comes as Roethlisberger faces a lawsuit filed last July by a woman who says he raped her in 2008 at a Lake Tahoe hotel and casino, an allegation he strongly denies. Roethlisberger, who was not in custody, has not been criminally charged in either case and has claimed counter-damages in the lawsuit.
Still, to hear it on the airwaves in Pittsburgh, this latest situation seems to have shaken fans of the star quarterback, a man who has never hidden the fact he enjoys the nightlife. He has been spotted gambling in Las Vegas and is sometimes seen in public with small groups of friends and bodyguards.
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The latest accusation came early Friday in downtown Milledgeville, about 85 miles southeast of Atlanta and about 30 miles south of the lake home the player owns. Roethlisberger, who turned 28 on Tuesday, and two or three friends went to Buffington's bar earlier Thursday night to watch the University of Pittsburgh men's college basketball game, said Paul Kurcikevicus, a 24-year-old college student.
Roethlisberger was later seen at Capital City, a popular nightclub for students at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville.
One patron at the bar on Friday night, 21-year-old college student Brandon Harris, said he saw Roethlisberger come in the night before with two or three big men who were keeping other clubgoers away. Harris said the group went into a curtained VIP area in the back of the club, and some women were let inside.
Amber Hanley, a 21-year-old college student, said she and a few friends were also in the VIP area with Roethlisberger. She said she asked the quarterback to take a photo with her friend, who was a fan, but he seemed disappointed that's all she wanted. Hanley said she rolled her eyes, and Roethlisberger called her an expletive and walked away. Later, Roethlisberger was aggressively hitting on another girl, Hanley said.
Deputy Police Chief Richard Malone said Friday that Roethlisberger had been with three other people who were mingling with another group that included the alleged victim. Malone said the woman and her party contacted a nearby police officer following the alleged assault.
"He's been identified as being at the scene and there are allegations naming him as the perpetrator," Malone said. The nature of the assault was not described, but Malone did say it was being termed a sexual assault, not a rape.
Roethlisberger and the alleged victim were interviewed and the woman was taken to a hospital, where she was treated and released, Malone said. The woman was not identified by police and The Associated Press does not generally identify possible victims of sexual abuse.
Police said Roethlisberger and his attorney were cooperating with investigators. He was not in custody.
Lions — It will take time to determine if the Detroit Lions started the offseason by making all the right moves.
Without a doubt, though, the Lions got who they wanted.
On Saturday, Detroit signed the players it coveted most in free agency — defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and receiver Nate Burleson — a day after acquiring defensive Corey Williams in a trade with the Cleveland Browns.
"They were the No. 1 guys we wanted to go after," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "To able to get it done is very gratifying."
It also was expensive.
Vanden Bosch got a five-year contract worth $26 million. Burleson will make $10 million guaranteed as part of a $25 million, four-year deal. Williams has four years and nearly $20 million in base salary left on his contract.
Schwartz traveled to Tennessee to woo Vanden Bosch and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was dispatched to Seattle to court Burleson.
The second-year coach sent Vanden Bosch a text message just after midnight Friday while parked outside his gated community, toting a bottle of Opus One and three stuffed animals — lions, of course — for his three young children.
"He said, 'I could be anywhere in the country going after any player and I picked you,' " Vanden Bosch recalled. "That meant a lot to me and that's something I will never forget."
Saints — The New Orleans Saints have agreed to one-year free-agent contracts with offensive lineman Nick Leckey, a former Kansas State Wildcat, and safety Pierson Prioleau.
General manager Mickey Loomis announced the deals Saturday without disclosing financial terms. Both players had signed one-year deals with the Saints last season and played reserve roles on New Orleans' first Super Bowl championship team.
Leckey, a 6-foot-3, 291-pound, six-year veteran, played in eight games and all three postseason games in 2009, mostly on special teams with some work at center.
Rams — The St. Louis Rams signed free agent A.J. Feeley as part of what could be a big shakeup at the quarterback position. Terms of the deal announced Saturday were not disclosed, but media reports said Feeley got a two-year contract.
Feeley, who turns 33 in May, was a backup for Carolina in 2009. In 10 seasons he has completed 372 of 665 passes for 4,070 yards, 27 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. His lifetime quarterback rating is 69.6.
Feeley was drafted by the Eagles in the fifth round out of Oregon in 2001, and spent his early career in Philadelphia at a time when Andy Reid's staff included Steve Spagnuolo as a defensive assistant and Pat Shurmur as an offensive coach. Spagnuolo is now coach of the Rams, and Shurmur is offensive coordinator.
Patriots — The New England Patriots agreed to terms on a new contract with defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.
Wilfork announced the deal on his Twitter feed Saturday and Patriots spokesman Stacey James confirmed that an agreement had been reached. Terms were not disclosed.
Wilfork was the team's top free-agent priority this offseason.