View Full Version : Steelers' Roethlisberger seeking 'a new start'

06-04-2010, 01:35 AM
Steelers' Roethlisberger seeking 'a new start'
Friday, June 04, 2010
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ben Roethlisberger spoke words many longed to hear, even though there were not many of them. His delivery sounded sincere, humble, contrite, as did his body language.

The Steelers' quarterback took another small step forward Thursday when he spoke publicly for the first time since he read a statement April 12 in the team's locker room after authorities in Georgia announced they would not charge him with sexual assault.

He read no statements after practice Thursday. He walked off the field with Steelers public relations staff member Burt Lauten and headed toward a gaggle of news media estimated to be in the 40s on the field's edge. As some in the crowd pushed toward him, he politely asked them to be careful because one of the more petite of their group, a woman, might get jostled in front.

Roethlisberger then spoke briefly and followed by answering two questions before Lauten ended the interview that lasted two minutes. That was the plan; say something quick, take a question or two and live to interview another day.

Next likely will come the longer interviews, the one-on-ones -- Oprah? Larry King? -- in which Roethlisberger might bare his soul and provide more details of how he plans to change his life, which is something he promised Thursday.

"A lot of them are personal things, you know, which is just something that I need to do," Roethlisberger said. "But it's been neat being able to really re-evaluate my life and spend time with my family and kind of re-evaluate and refigure what's important in my life."

Two questions were asked; many more remain, including the most important: How do you regain the respect of fans? What possibly can he say or do to erase the memory of what police and others say what happened in the early morning hours of March 5 in a tiny college town in Georgia?

A 20-year-old inebriated woman, who had followed him from bar to bar, at first claimed sexual assault, then asked investigators not to pursue the case. Five weeks later, Georgia authorities announced they would not charge Roethlisberger with a crime, although the district attorney gave a scathing review of the whole seedy scene and advised the quarterback to "grow up."

Roethlisberger at least appeared to try to do that this week.

Since his return to the Steelers on Tuesday, Roethlisberger has seemed relaxed, genuine and humble while talking to people around the team's facility. He has apologized to some for being what he termed a "jerk" at times during his career and promised they will see a changed man from now on.

He has told people that he got caught up in the "Big Ben" persona and that he wants to return to the grounded person he said he had been before he allowed all of the NFL success to envelope him. He is said to be turning more strongly toward his religious beliefs as well.

The words sounded good Thursday, but only his actions can win back fans he has lost over the past three months, on and off the field. The big job, of course, comes off the field, where his reputation lies tattered. But there will be pressure for him to continue to perform at a top level on the field as well. Otherwise the amateur psychologists among fans, the media and maybe even his coaches and teammates will blame any below-average performances on his troubles and wonder if he will ever be the same quarterback they knew before March 5.

"I'm looking forward to the second chance and a second opportunity," Roethlisberger said Thursday, "not just in football because I think everyone knows what you're going to get in football, but in life."

The football part will be almost as intriguing to watch because he will go through an entire training camp, and then be banished for at least a month by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's decree.

Roethlisberger also has told people he plans to be more accessible to the news media and he indicated as much Thursday, ending his brief interview by telling them, "I'll be talking to you guys a lot more."

That was a small step for Roethlisberger. He has giant leaps remaining.
QB derby virtually done

The Steelers have three spring practices left on the schedule, but really there is only one. That could mean the hunt for the quarterback to start the season is over, and may have been over long ago.

The organized team activity that takes place Tuesday will not be football, but bowling as Mike Tomlin takes his team on its annual outing. Wednesday, the team will practice at Heinz Field and Thursday, the last permitted practice, also bows to the Tomlin-era tradition of "hat day," in which players where alternative headgear that can range from baseball cap to more unique styles, and usually includes a much briefer practice period.

Dennis Dixon has not practiced with the first team and it has become obvious Byron Leftwich will open the season as the starting quarterback. With the return of Roethlisbeger this week, Dixon has gotten more snaps and was No. 2 Thursday, but Leftwich ran the first team since minicamp April 30 until Roethlisberger's arrival Tuesday.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10155/10 ... z0prNIkXhY (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10155/1063100-66.stm#ixzz0prNIkXhY)

06-04-2010, 01:39 AM
Gorman: Going in circles with Big Ben
Friday, June 4, 2010
click to enlarge

Big Ben speaks
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 84371.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_684371.html)

Watching the Steelers' voluntary practices this week has been like the scene out of National Lampoon's "European Vacation," endlessly circling the roundabout only to hear Clark W. Griswold's grim reminder.

"Look, kids: Big Ben, Parliament."

Ben Roethlisberger spent this spring serving as a national monument to everything that is wrong with today's professional athlete, spoiled by success in the arena and a sense of entitlement outside of it.

Then, in a roundabout way Thursday, the Steelers quarterback broke his silence since being handed a conditional six-game suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in late April for repeated bad behavior after two accusations of sexual assault in a nine-month span.

Big Ben spoke but really didn't say much.

He took questions but really didn't answer them.

Oh, he talked for 2 minutes, 16 seconds about how he has "put a lot of thought into my life, decisions that I've made in the past." How he is "working closely with the commissioner on ways to make changes, corrections." How he is "evaluating what I need to do and be smarter when it comes to certain things."

He just didn't divulge any details.

This wasn't the defiant Roethlisberger who hadn't bothered to shave or get a haircut when he read a statement April 12 he essentially said, "I'm not guilty of anything, and I'm only apologizing because they are making me" only to show up clean-cut the next day to meet with Goodell.

Yesterday, there was a change in demeanor. That Roethlisberger was relaxed and friendly with the horde of 40-plus reporters is a promising sign. Perhaps he has figured out that the media provides a window to the public and that he is going to need their help to repair his battered persona.

The Steelers are control freaks when it comes to their public image, so it's no surprise they have been tight-lipped throughout this ordeal. When Roethlisberger received his suspension, team president Art Rooney II conducted a conference call from his office with reporters who were next door in the media room at the team offices on the South Side.

It's no surprise the Steelers waited so long to let Roethlisberger talk and tried to present the warm-and-fuzzy image of a changed man.

This was staged, but not in the same way Tiger Woods scripted his statement, formally dressed before a hand-picked audience at a PGA club and making the prolonged gesture of hugging his mother. Roethlisberger was in his natural element, standing on a football field in a jersey and shorts.

After a one-minute statement and answering two questions the first being how much he appreciated his teammates' support Roethlisberger excused himself but promised he would be talking a lot more in the future.

Good thing, considering he didn't address any topics that should be touched upon before he can "close the chapter of the last couple years of my life and move on to a new one, kind of a new start."

We didn't get to ask Roethlisberger what he has learned about himself since that March 5 night in Milledgeville, Ga.; whether he believes he has serious issues with alcohol and women and whether they are being addressed; whether he believes his punishment is too harsh for someone who hasn't committed a crime; and most of all whether he's truly apologetic for his actions.

Roethlisberger should at least have addressed this: What do you have to do to win back Steelers fans?

Then again, maybe coach Mike Tomlin said it best.

"It's less about how we respond to this in the short term and really even further less important what we say about it," he said. "It's more about how we move forward, largely in the long term, and know he has a commitment to what we desire him to be and what this team needs him to be."

Not just a Super Bowl-winning quarterback but one who is able to admit he has made monumental mistakes and is trying hard to overcome them.

Until then, we're just going in circles.

06-04-2010, 01:40 AM
Roethlisberger: Trying to make most of 'new chapter'
Friday, June 4, 2010
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 84300.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_684300.html)

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Thursday he intends to make the most of an opportunity to redeem himself in a "new chapter" in his life.

"I've spent a lot of time evaluating and looking at my life, on and off the field, and I think this is kind of the time for me to close the chapter of the last couple of years of my life and move on," Roethlisberger said after practice. "Looking forward to the second chance, second opportunity. Not just in football, but in life. I think that's kind of what's more important."

Roethlisberger talked to reporters for the first time since National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for the first six games of the 2010 season.

The incident that led to his suspension -- a 20-year-old college student's accusation that Roethlisberger sexually assaulted her March 5 in Milledgeville, Ga. -- caused him to take stock of his personal life, he said. Authorities in Georgia did not file charges against Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger, accused of sexual assault in a civil lawsuit filed by a woman in Las Vegas last year, said he is working with Goodell to make "changes, corrections" to his life. With good behavior, his suspension could be reduced to four games.

"It's been neat to really evaluate my life and spend time with my family and kind of refigure what's important in life," he said. "That's my evaluating, what I need to do."

He did not say specifically what changes he has made.

The more than 40 reporters gathered at Steelers' headquarters did not get a chance to press him for details, or talk to him about much else. After making an opening statement, Roethlisberger answered two questions before a team official ended the session.

One image expert said the controlled setting in which Roethlisberger spoke was a good strategy.

"Had he done the in-depth interview, the focus would be a lot more on the substance of what he was saying, rather than the image he's trying to project," said Gene Grabowski, senior vice president at Levick Strategic Communications, a Washington firm specializing in crisis communications. "Instead, the story is about how he is smiling, and that's a positive image.

"If he wants to, later on -- and he probably should -- he can sit down and do some interviews and get into some depth. He's softened up his image."

Roethlisberger immediately struck a conciliatory tone with reporters, saying he knew how long they waited to talk to him.

"I just wanted to let you guys know how good it is to be back on the field. I love football to death," he said. Goodell cleared him to return to practice late last week.

His teammates were supportive, he said: "It's been great to read and hear from those guys. Not just text messages and calls they send to me, but to read the things in the media that they say. That's why I say it's great to be out here with my brothers, because they really are family to me."

Kicker Jeff Reed, who's dealt with image problems and off-the-field incidents, said he's happy to see Roethlisberger moving forward.

"He's a great quarterback and a really good person," Reed said. "Everyone has their share of mistakes, and it's how you respond, and I'm sure he'll respond fine."

Reed disclosed that like Roethlisberger, he underwent an NFL-mandated psychological evaluation after police charged him with four misdemeanors last October, including disorderly conduct and public drunkenness, after a run-in with officers outside a North Shore bar. Reed did not reveal details of his evaluation. He was cleared of all charges in April after completing 40 hours of community service with the Salvation Army.

Earlier last year, Reed paid a fine of $543.50 after police accused him of damaging a paper towel dispenser and harassing employees at a Westmoreland County convenience store, a few weeks after the Steelers beat Arizona in the Super Bowl.

Reed said negative publicity following his and Roethlisberger's incidents doesn't tell the whole story.

"The thing that bothers me at times, that goes unnoticed, is all of the positive things that this team does for the community," he said. "I probably do two (charity appearances) a week ... but you never hear about (me) until I get in trouble. It's always 'What a bad guy,' and stuff like that."