View Full Version : Roethlisberger finds some support in camp

08-01-2010, 12:05 AM
Roethlisberger finds some support in camp
Sunday, August 1, 2010

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Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left the Steelers' first open practice of training camp shoeless.

Roethlisberger, who signed both of his cleats and gave them away, also exited the grassy practice area at St. Vincent College Saturday as he had entered it more than two hours earlier: with fans cheering the quarterback who had alienated so many with his boorish behavior.

The reception Roethlisberger received from fans they lined the steps leading from the locker room and ringed the practice fields represented another small but significant step for a simple reason.

Yesterday marked Roethlisberger's first encounter with fans since a sexual assault accusation last March in Georgia nearly torpedoed his Steelers career and resulted in a conditional suspension at the start of this season.

"I was a little nervous and scared about it, but it was neat to hear everybody cheering and seeing my jersey and a lot of encouragement," Roethlisberger said.

Disparaging remarks directed at Roethlisberger were, in fact, as in short supply as shade on the open practice fields.

Roethlisberger returned the favor to fans by signing Terrible Towels, footballs, hats and jerseys for half an hour after practice and also posing for pictures.

Micah Delattre, a 7-year-old from Houtzdale in Clearfield County, left St. Vincent with a signed cleat. Roethlisberger gave the youngster the keepsake after he got pushed into the railing that separated the two-time Super Bowl winner from fans near the main practice field.

Such gestures aren't the only ones Roethlisberger is making as he tries to rehabilitate his image. He spent nearly eight minutes answering questions from the first large media gathering he has faced since the Georgia incident.

Roethlisberger also is apparently reaching out to teammates more.

"He's changing as far as being more personable with guys, hanging out with guys and stuff like that," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said. "You can see him making an effort to go out and be a better teammate than what he was."

Ward, who has been at odds with Roethlisberger at times during their Steelers careers, walked to the practice fields with Roethlisberger yesterday. That show of support, Roethlisberger said, is indicative of what his teammates have done for him during the most trying period of his life.

"I understand that these guys have a lot of support and a lot of love for me," Roethlisberger said. "A lot of them came to me (Saturday) and said, 'Don't worry about (how fans might react to him) because we've got your back no matter what.' That really was special."

Roethlisberger said pretty much the same thing about serving as the No. 1 quarterback during both the morning and afternoon practices yesterday.

"This is still his team," Ward said.

That doesn't change the fact that the Steelers still have to get another quarterback ready to run the offense for at least the first four games of the season.

Byron Leftwich is the front-runner to start in Roethlisberger's absence, and both ran the first-team offense yesterday.

The quarterback order, at least for now, is Roethlisberger, Leftwich, Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch, and the first three will get the bulk of the work.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians had the three quarterbacks rotating every three plays yesterday with Batch getting an occasional snap.

"Once we get in a little better shape, we'll rotate (quarterbacks) every five plays," Arians said. "But the first day, you keep them to three so there's no fatigue injuries. You've got to watch how many throws they make so their arms don't get sore."

Roethlisberger, who looks notably trimmer than in past training camps, said he has never felt better physically.

The 6-5, 241-pounder said he has been working out at night even after long days such as the opening one of camp.

Roethlisberger seems as intent on returning better than ever after his suspension it starts after the Steelers' final preseason game, which is Sept. 2 as he does on winning back fans.

"I want to win a championship this year," Roethlisberger said. "That's my ultimate goal."

Ben (sound)bites

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spoke to a large media group Saturday for the first time since last year. Here is what he said on the following:

How the offseason changed him:

"I feel it's humbled me and made me a better person. All the things that happened are behind us. Now, it's all about moving forward and focusing on football."

If he dreaded facing fans for the first time prior to yesterday's afternoon practice:

"Not dread it. I was nervous. Nervous and scared and anxious. A lot of emotions."

Whether he will talk with Roger Goodell on Thursday the NFL commissioner visits Steelers camp then and whether he thinks his six-game suspension will get reduced to four games:

"I think everyone made a big deal that he's coming here just to see me, and he's kind of making a tour of all the camps, but, yeah, I'll talk to him. I don't know what we'll talk about, but it's ultimately going to be his call and his decision on what he does with each individual player. And he's the commissioner and boss who makes the decisions."

If yesterday felt like a normal camp practice after he got onto the field:

"It did, surprisingly enough. Once we started walking down the stands and hearing (fans) cheer and giving them high fives, we got on the field, and I kind of got lost in just being out here at camp and being at St. Vincent's. That's what we said getting here, everything that has happened we've put behind us because it's time for football now."

08-01-2010, 12:37 AM
Such gestures aren't the only ones Roethlisberger is making as he tries to rehabilitate his image.

That cleats gesture has been going on since at least 2007. It wasn't a PR move. He did that long before all this crap in Nevada and Georgia started.

stlrz d
08-01-2010, 12:40 AM
Such gestures aren't the only ones Roethlisberger is making as he tries to rehabilitate his image.

That cleats gesture has been going on since at least 2007. It wasn't a PR move. He did that long before all this crap in Nevada and Georgia started.

Correct. There's even a youtube video of him signing autographs and giving away his cleats. I believe it was from several years ago.

stlrz d
08-01-2010, 12:43 AM
Found it. It's from 3 years ago.

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08-01-2010, 01:53 AM
Steeler fans greet Roethlisberger warmly
Big Ben breathes sigh of relief at practice
Sunday, August 01, 2010
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

At 8:48 a.m., Ben Roethlisberger started down the paved path to the practice field at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, ready to begin his first official practice in a season that continues to tumble toward uncertainty for the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. It was much different than the entrance he would make six hours later.

There were no spectators lining the walkway or the practice field when he walked with backup quarterback Charlie Batch in the morning, no fans sitting in the metal stands at Chuck Noll Field. His procession to the field was largely unnoticed and totally without fanfare. The only sounds were those of birds chirping in the light morning sun.

But, at 2:43 p.m., the atmosphere was much different.

This time, when Mr. Roethlisberger made the same walk down the same path for the afternoon practice, it was the first time he had appeared publicly in front of the Steelers Nation since his much-publicized sexual-assault case in Milledgeville, Ga. -- an incident for which he was never charged but one that has scarred his reputation and relationship in the city in which he performs.

He was accompanied by wide receiver Hines Ward, who made a point to wait for Mr. Roethlisberger and walk with him into the gauntlet of fans.

"I wasn't worried about the morning practice," Mr. Roethlisberger said. "It was this afternoon one."

In the end, there was no reason to worry at all.

As he made his way to the practice field, Mr. Roethlisberger heard nothing but cheers from the crowd, estimated by campus officials at 10,000. By the time the he and his teammates were stretching, Mr. Roethlisberger said the nerves and apprehension about how he would be received by Steelers fans -- fears he revealed during an exclusive interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette a day earlier -- had all but dissipated.

"I didn't know [what to expect]," he said Saturday after the first official day of training camp had ended. "I was nervous and scared, but it was neat to hear everyone cheering and see my jersey and [get a] lot of encouragement.

"Once we started walking down the stairs and seeing the fans and hearing them cheer, I kind of got lost in camp and being at Saint Vincent. Everything that has happened, we put behind us because it's time for football now."

That certainly seemed to be the reaction of the crowd to Mr. Roethlisberger, who cheered him every time he completed a pass.

While the reception was certainly not to be confused with a hero's welcome, there were no derisive comments or boos from the spectators that ringed the field and sat in the stands.

After practice, Mr. Roethlisberger went over to the stands at the south end of the field and signed autographs, even posing for pictures and giving each of his shoes to several spectators.

But maybe what pleased Mr. Roethlisberger the most was taking the first official snap of training camp with the first-team offense -- something he did in the morning and afternoon practice sessions. He referred to the gesture as "pretty special."

"He's our quarterback," said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. "Everybody else is fighting for a job."

"I had talked to [Arians] about it, so I was hoping that wouldn't change," Mr. Roethlisberger said.

"It felt good to be able to get in there with the first group. The linemen and receivers and running backs said it was good to have me in there."

Then he added, "I understand these guys have a lot of support and a lot of love for me. A lot of them came to me today after comments they heard I said about the fans and not knowing what would happen, and they said, 'Don't worry about it, because we got your back no matter what.' That was special."

Curiously, the player who walked with him to face the crowd was Mr. Ward, who last month told the NFL Network that Mr. Roethlisberger needed to be more forthcoming about what happened in Milledgeville if he wanted to win back the trust of his teammates.

"I'm just trying to be a leader and a friend, regardless of whatever people want to make of our relationship," Mr. Ward said. "At the end of the day, he still depends on me, and I go out and catch 95 balls.

"There's no beef between Ben and I. I offered to walk out there with him because all I heard this morning was that he was worried about the fans. Well, let's go out together and face it together."

And the reaction?

"I didn't hear anything negative," Mr. Ward said. "We had a great first day."
Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com.

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