Rescuers told Roethlisberger he was close to dying

Updated: July 14, 2006, 10:48 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

BRISTOL, Conn. -- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Wednesday night that he was told he was "seconds, maybe a minute away from dying" immediately after his motorcycle accident last month.

Roethlisberger, in his first interview since the June 12 accident, told ESPN's "SportsCenter" that he doesn't remember much about the accident when he rammed his motorcycle into a car that was making a left turn in front of him on a Pittsburgh street. He did, however, remember what he was told by people at the scene.

"They told me that I was literally seconds, maybe a minute away from dying because I slit a vein or artery in my mouth or my throat and it was draining blood right into my stomach and luckily the paramedic noticed it and stopped it or else I would have had too much blood in my stomach," he told ESPN's Jim Rome in Los Angeles, where he was for the taping of the ESPYS.

"I remember very few things about the accident," Roethlisberger said. "I remember one car turning in front of me, I don't remember the car that hit me, but I remember that first car turning in front of me and the next thing I remember is being in the ambulance and asking, 'Is this really happening?'

"I said, 'Tell me this is just a bad dream,' and he said, 'No, everything is going to be OK,' and he asked me, 'Is there anyone you want me to call?' ... I just gave him two numbers and I don't remember anything until I woke up from surgery."

Roethlisberger underwent seven hours of surgery to repair a broken jaw and other facial bones. Tests showed no brain injuries, although he had a mild concussion. He also lost two teeth and chipped several others.

Roethlisberger was cited for not wearing a helmet when the accident happened.

"That day I wasn't, I forgot it. I literally forgot it," he said. "You know there are times that, people that have been making a big deal for the last couple years about me riding first of all, and then me riding without a helmet, but it's one of those things that I ride with a helmet also. I do a little bit of both. If you don't wear a seat belt every time you ride in the car should I label you as a person who doesn't wear a seat belt? And unfortunately I happened to not have it on that day because I forgot it in the basement."

Roethlisberger said he didn't know if he would ride a motorcycle again.

"I don't know. I am not even thinking about that right now," he said. "To me, right now, like I said when I first started thinking about things, I started thinking about my family. Now that I am doing better and I feel good, now all I am thinking about is football and that is what is on my mind right now. I am getting healthy and I am getting better every day so all I am thinking about is football. I am not thinking about anything else."

Additional portions of Roethlisberger's interview with ESPN will be aired Thursday on the 6 p.m. ET SportsCenter and subsequent editions. The ESPYS will be televised Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.

He doesn't plan on doing public safety announcements for motorcycle or helmet safety.

"I don't think that's my place," the quarterback said in a taped interview aired Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"Some people feel that, you know, I probably should be doing that and being a big advocate for that," Roethlisberger said from Los Angeles. "But for me, I'm going to let people make their own decisions ... So I don't think you'll see me doing any kind of billboards or advertisements."

Roethlisberger told ABC he forgot how his life is scrutinized by the public.

"I forgot that I have to live this life under the microscope and that people are always watching and criticizing everything that I do," he said. "I'm coming off two pretty good seasons in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl and 24 years old, and maybe this is God's way of saying, 'Hey, I can take it away from you at anytime so you better back off a little bit."'

Roethlisberger is scheduled to play in a celebrity golf tournament this weekend in Lake Tahoe, Nev.

Including the postseason, the Steelers are 27-4 with Roethlisberger at quarterback. They advanced to the AFC Championship Game in both his seasons as a starter, winning the Super Bowl in January.

The Steelers won the ESPY for best team, and Roethlisberger joined his teammates and coach Bill Cowher onstage to accept the award. It was his first public appearance since the accident.

Roethlisberger didn't appear backstage to talk to reporters.

"I have no concerns about Ben," Cowher said backstage. "He's going to have to get hit a couple times to see if he's all the way back. Hopefully, he can be a great inspiration to a lot of people about looking at life a little more cautiously."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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