Big Ben apologizes, pledges he'll ride wearing helmet

Updated: June 16, 2006, 7:49 AM ET
Associated Press

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.

Roethlisberger: I will wear helmet
The following statement was released by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Thursday:

"In the past few days, I have gained a new perspective on life. By the grace of God, I am fortunate to be alive, surrounded by loved ones and lifted by the prayers and support of so many. I am sorry for any anxiety and concern my actions have caused others, specifically my family, the Steelers organization, my teammates and our fans.

I recognize that I have a responsibility to safeguard my health in the offseason so I can continue to lead our team effectively. I never meant any harm to others nor to break any laws. I was confident in my ability to ride a motorcycle and simply believed such an accident would not happen to me. If I ever ride again, it certainly will be with a helmet.

My deepest appreciation goes out to the Steelers organization and my teammates for the compassion they have shown me. The physicians and support staff at Mercy Hospital were simply amazing, and I will forever be grateful for their caring treatment.

I want to assure everyone I am committed to a complete and timely recovery. I look forward to being at training camp in Latrobe and to winning football games this season. "

"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 Pennsylvania's mandatory helmet law was repealed in 2003.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.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press