Roethlisberger in 2005: '... The safest rider I can be'
In July 2005, ESPN's Andrea Kremer interviewed Ben Roethlisberger shortly after the Cleveland Browns' tight end Kellen Winslow was injured in a motorcycle accident. Portions of that conversation are below:
ESPN: Why do you ride a motorcycle?
Roethlisberger: Because I choose to. I want to. It's relaxing to me.
ESPN: What kind of rush do you get?
Roethlisberger: Oh, it's not a rush. It's relaxing. A rush is when you're riding a roller coaster. It's relaxing for me. You're going out, riding in groups, having fun ... you're free. Your mind is as free as it can get and it's probably the best stress reliever I've ever had in my entire life.
ESPN: Why? Why does it do that?
Roethlisberger: I don't know. You're just out there and you're free.
ESPN: How long have you been riding?
Roethlisberger: For a while.
ESPN: What's a while?
Roethlisberger: A long time.
ESPN: Since you were in high school?
Roethlisberger: I've always been big into snowmobiles, four-wheelers, jet skis, all kinds of those X Games kind of things. And I just finally bought my own motorcycle, not too long ago.
ESPN: I assume you have your license?
ESPN: It's not the law in Pennsylvania to wear a helmet. Why don't you wear a helmet?
Roethlisberger: Because you don't have to. It's not the law. If it was the law, I'd definitely have one on every time I rode. But it's the law and I know I don't have to and you're just more free when you're out there with no helmet on.
ESPN: How much do you view riding a motorcycle as a risk?
Roethlisberger: I think it can be a risk. It depends on how you ride. I don't ride a sport bike. If I'm riding a sport bike and trying to do tricks, and going 200 miles down the highway, that's probably pretty stupid. But when you're riding a Harley or a chopper and you're riding with a group of people and you're not on the highway and you're cruising, you're relaxing. I don't think its as much of a risk as people make it out to be.
ESPN: What is the difference between what you're talking about, recreational riding, and what Kellen Winslow was doing? What kind of bike do you ride?
Roethlisberger: I ride a Harley and a chopper. Those are the two bikes I ride the most.
ESPN: Are those viewed a top of the line, high performance cycles?
Roethlisberger: They are like, it would be like riding in a Cadillac compared to a Ferrari, which is a sport bike. It's a luxury motorcycle. You know it's relaxing. You don't pop wheelies, because it's pretty hard to do it anyway. So you just keep two wheels on the ground and you just ride.
ESPN: Have you ever done wheelies?
Roethlisberger: No, never tried. Never will.
Roethlisberger: Because it's just asking for disaster. It's just asking to go down.
ESPN: When you heard about Kellen Winslow's accident, what went through your mind?
Roethlisberger: I was concerned for him. I was hoping he'd be OK because he's a great player. You don't want someone like that to get injured off the field, and so I was hoping he was going to be OK. ... I knew it was going to blow up for me, people were going to start talking about me as well.
ESPN: What part of you said, "those are the consequences?"
Roethlisberger: Well, it's just like anything and I didn't wish for him to get hurt. It's just like anything else, the more risk you put into something, into whatever it is ... Just like gambling. You're gambling. The more money you want to put into something -- you can lose, or you can win big, so you take gambles with things and you can get burned.
ESPN: Jamie Henderson was just out riding, had an accident, and was in a coma, so how do you manage the risk?
Roethlisberger: Well it's just like everything else. You can get injured and killed in a car, too. You can get killed walking down the street. You have to know what you're doing, and I'm not saying anyone didn't know what they were doing, but it's a risk and being in life is a risk.
ESPN: What has (Steelers head coach) Bill Cowher said with respect to riding a motorcycle?
Roethlisberger: People blew that out of proportion, what we talked about.
ESPN: What was it?
Roethlisberger: We talked in camp. We were just standing there, he asked me about how I rode, who I rode with, am I safe, and I told him exactly what I told you. I don't ride sport bikes. I ride Harleys and choppers and I ride in a group, and we point out potholes as we go by so other people will know ... he asked me about wearing helmet, and I said I don't wear a helmet, and he goes just be careful. He never told me not to ride. He never told me to wear a helmet. Then people said that I just denied everything he said. He didn't say anything like that. He just told me be careful and use my head.
ESPN: Did you need to be told that?
Roethlisberger: I was already doing those things. But it's just like, my father said the same thing, it's just someone telling you because they care about you.
ESPN: What have (your) mother (and) father said?
Roethlisberger: They don't like me doing it, but they know I'm a man. I can make my own decisions. They just want me to be careful.
ESPN: Is there an analogy between the rush of motorcycle riding and football?
Roethlisberger: I don't get on them because it's a risk. I don't get thrills like when you ride them like 'oh this is a rush for me.' It's just relaxing for me. I mean, I could just get in the biggest fight of my life and get on the bike everything is forgotten and you're free. And I think its going to help me, I think.
ESPN: Where do you ride?
Roethlisberger: All over. We ride outside of Pittsburgh, out on the country roads, and just ride.
ESPN: How aware are you that some contracts ban risky activity?
ESPN: What, if anything, is in your contract about motorcycles?
Roethlisberger: If it was in my contract it said I can not ride a motorcycle, then I can't ride a motorcycle.
ESPN: What if they wanted to put that additional language in there?
Roethlisberger: I wouldn't be happy, but that's part of the deal. If your boss says you can't do it, you can't do it.
ESPN: You would abide by that?
Roethlisberger: Absolutely, it's the law.
ESPN: But it's not in there?
Roethlisberger: Right. We've gone over that with a fine toothed comb ... not breaking the rules, exactly, just like wearing a helmet. If the law says I need to wear a helmet, I'll wear a helmet.
ESPN: How do you view that you are putting your employment at risk?
Roethlisberger: It's tough. It's kind of like we say: "Let those who ride decide." I can make a decision. I'm a man. You're not going to make a decision for me, especially if you're not my boss or my employer. You don't have the right to make that decision for me, so I'm gonna go out and be as careful as I can look how many people are killed in car accidents every day. It's [a] risk whatever you do.
ESPN: What kind of gawk factor do you get when you're on a motorcycle?
Roethlisberger: I don't ever ride by myself. We always have at least one other guy there. They say 'I'm not worried about you riding, I'm worried about the other people,' and it's true. People don't see motorcycles as much because it's a smaller vehicle.
ESPN: Have you been distracted at all?
Roethlisberger: No, its just like anything else: you've got to stay focused because if you don't stay focused, you're going to lose the game, or you could die.
ESPN: What to you constitutes a hazardous activity for a professional athlete?
Roethlisberger: Playing football with no pads on. Riding a motorcycle? I don't think is hazardous. I think maybe something like skydiving, although I think that's pretty safe from what I've heard.
ESPN: What obligation does a professional athlete have in his free time to not engage in certain activities?
Roethlisberger: The obligation for us is on the days we practice and on Sundays, the days that we play. That is the obligation we have, to go out and be athletes toward what we do. In my free time, I can work out, which I do. I can throw, which I do. Or I can do anything else that I want to do -- as long as its not illegal or against the rules.
Roethlisberger: There's a lot of people that ride that people don't know about, it's amazing.
ESPN: Why? What do you mean by that?
Roethlisberger: (John) Elway rode his whole career. (Troy) Aikman. All those guys. They still ride theirs. I bet I'd have to say over 75 percent of the league people ride motorcycles.
ESPN: What would people have thought if they did know that John Elway rode a motorcycle?
Roethlisberger: I have no idea. I don't what would people think. You know I just know people they make a big fuss like Kellen and I are the first guys ever to ride motorcycles you know I think that's just silly.
ESPN: Can you understand that there is a focus on the risk factor?
Roethlisberger: Yes, but there is a risk in everything you do. (In) everyday life, there is a risk no matter what you are doing. And yeah, there is a risk if I'm out there doing wheelies on a motorcycle. But I'm being the safest rider I can be.
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• Wojciechowski: Enough to convince 'em?
• Report: Roethlisberger didn't have license
• Roethlisberger upgraded to fair condition
• Rovell: Player contracts and motorcycle clauses
• Big Ben undergoes seven hours of surgery after crash
• Big Ben discusses riding in July 2005 interview
• Athletes involved in motorcycle accidents
• Cowher warned Big Ben of riding dangers
• Bill Cowher: A tough lesson, but it should motivate
• Ike Taylor on effect on team
• Bob Holtzman: Hospital scene
• Mark Madden: Local reaction from Pittsburgh
• Roethlisberger interview: morning of the crash