Roethlisberger is up and running at Steelers camp
LATROBE, Pa. -- Maybe he was running with a couple of linemen, but he was running. There was no look of pain or discomfort, or any sign that he didn't belong on a football field so soon after surviving an accident he says could have killed him.
Ben Roethlisberger easily completed the series of wind sprints that every non-injured Pittsburgh Steelers player is required to run when training camp opens. That June 12 motorcycle accident that gave his teammates, his fans -- and, yes, he himself -- such a major scare was not on his mind Saturday.
Even if it is every morning of his life and likely will be for a long time to come.
"When my guys here still see me, they shake their heads. The coaches shake their heads," said Roethlisberger, sweat dripping off his face minutes after running. "I shake my head every morning when I look in the mirror. I do feel blessed to be out here and to be able to take this test and play football."
Players dislike the running tests and are glad they occur only once per camp, but Roethlisberger almost seemed to be looking forward to them. Maybe it was because the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl still feels as if he had something to prove less than six months since winning an NFL championship.
"It was important for me. A lot of guys were asking me, 'Are you really going to run? You don't have to go out and prove anything to us.' But it was important for me to get out there and show the guys and the coaches that I'm out here and I'm going to give it my all," he said.
That's why Roethlisberger plans on throwing passes with the starters on Sunday, just as if there never had been a crash that caused him to fly off his motorcycle and smack his head into a windshield with such force it left an imprint of his skull in the shattered glass.
Despite bleeding badly, he came out of the accident far better than could have been expected, with a broken jaw and orbital bones, cuts and a concussion. He wasn't wearing a helmet during the crash, but plans to try two of them during camp -- his regular helmet, plus another with more padding.
"I've said it once and I'll say it again, the best protection isn't the newest technology in helmets or shoulder pads, it's my offensive line," Roethlisberger said. "Those guys are the best in the business, so I'm a lucky guy."
Coach Bill Cowher already has reminded him of that. Cowher could be seen laughing with Roethlisberger several times during the 80-minute run test, in which each player must run 14 40-yard sprints in a certain time depending on position.
Because he hasn't been able to run much since the accident, Roethlisberger ran with tackle Marvel Smith and rookie defensive end Orien Harris. Until now, he has been limited mostly to riding a stationary bicycle and swimming.
"It's just a blessing considering what could have been and when you looked at what took place. He's a very, very fortunate young man," Cowher said. "It has had a way of putting things back into the proper perspective. He has a greater appreciation for life now. Anybody who looks at something like that, it's a life-changing experience, and I don't think it's any different for him."
Roethlisberger's jaw was broken in four places, so he couldn't eat all types of solid food and has lost weight -- he's at 236 pounds, lower than he was at the end of last season and within his season-opening target range of 235-240.
What's uncertain now is if there will be any problems related to his head injuries that might develop once he starts getting hit in real games. But he is not required by his doctors to undergo any more neurological tests.
"If I go out there and feel lightheaded or dizzy, which would be news to me, then that's different. But, as of right now, I plan on going out there, being with the first group and going strong," he said.
Cowher also said it will be a normal camp for Roethlisberger, as long as nothing unexpected occurs. It hasn't been decided yet if he will play in the first exhibition game Aug. 12 against Arizona.
"We'll monitor things as we go. I think that's the best way to approach this," Cowher said. "There's no more apprehension."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press