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Big Ben apologizes, pledges he'll ride wearing helmet

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger apologized to the
Pittsburgh Steelers, fans and his family on Thursday, hours after
being released from a hospital, saying he was fortunate to be alive
and pledging to wear a helmet if he ever again rides a motorcycle.

"In the past few days, I've gained a new perspective on life,"
the Super Bowl-winning quarterback said in a statement released by
the team. "By the grace of God, I'm fortunate to be alive ... "

Roethlisberger, 24, who wrecked his bike and cracked his head on
a car windshield on Monday, was discharged late Wednesday night.

The youngest quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl was not
wearing a helmet when he crashed into a car that was turning left
in front of his motorcycle. Pennsylvania's mandatory helmet law was
repealed in 2003.

But Roethlisberger said in the statement that if he ever rides a
motorcycle again "it certainly will be with a helmet."

Doctors have said two rounds of tests showed no brain injuries,
although there was a mild concussion. Doctors used small titanium
plates and screws to reassemble Roethlisberger's broken jaws and
repaired other broken facial bones. He also lost two teeth and
chipped several others, doctors said.

In the statement, Roethlisberger said that he realizes he has a
responsibility to safeguard his health in the offseason so he can
continue to lead the team.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, citing
confidentiality laws, has refused to confirm media reports that
Roethlisberger does not have a valid Pennsylvania motorcycle
license.

Roethlisberger appeared to address those reports in his
statement.

"I never meant any harm to others nor to break any laws,"
Roethlisberger said. "I was confident in my ability to ride a
motorcycle and simply believed such an accident would not happen to
me."

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer said those
criticizing Roethlisberger for not wearing a helmet should back
off.

"He went through seven hours of surgery and the last thing he
needs right now is guys banging on him for not wearing a helmet,"
Palmer said at Bengals' minicamp in Cincinnati. "People are knocking him for not wearing a helmet and all of that, but the guy is hurting,"

Police were still investigating and will not release their
findings until their accident reconstruction is complete,
spokeswoman Tammy Ewin said. Police have finished inspecting
Roethlisberger's Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle and the car, but Ewin
would not elaborate on that part of the investigation.

A secretary for District Justice Oscar Petite Jr., who has
jurisdiction where the crash occurred, said no citations or other
charges have been filed.

The car's driver, a 62-year-old woman, did not immediately
return a telephone message Thursday.

The Steelers have not given a timetable for Roethlisberger's
return, but hope he will be ready for their Sept. 7 opener against
Miami. Players who visited Roethlisberger in the hospital believe
he will return to action soon, with no ill effects.

"I look forward to being at training camp in Latrobe and
winning football games this season," Roethlisberger said in the
statement.

The Steelers are 27-4 with Roethlisberger at quarterback and
have played in two AFC championship games and won a Super Bowl
during his two seasons as a starter.

Bengals receiver Chad Johnson hopes the accident does not cause
teams to impose more contractual limits on dangerous activities by
players.

"They took away the [touchdown] celebrations. Now we can't
enjoy ourselves outside of the facility? That's not fair," Johnson
said.

"If you're going to do it, do it very cautiously. If you're
going to ride a bike, ride it the right way. Don't speed. Do it for
enjoyment. If you're going to bungee jump, have two cords in case
one snaps. I don't ride anything. I just talk trash. That's it."

Although Roethlisberger was able to sneak out of the hospital
Wednesday night, Mercy Hospital officials did not confirm his
release until Thursday morning at the request of his family.

It was unclear where Roethlisberger went when he left the
hospital. A bodyguard outside Roethlisberger's home did not say if
the player was inside, but several vehicles were parked in the
driveway and on the street nearby.