Fans give Roethlisberger a big ovation

July, 31, 2010
7/31/10
6:35
PM ET
LATROBE, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger admits he was nervous. The two-time Super Bowl champion didn't know what type of reception he would get from Steeler Nation following his second off-the-field controversy in less than a year.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Keith Ben Roethlisberger was surprised by the reception fans gave him as he worked out with the first team.
Would "Big Ben" be heckled? Would he face boos? Would Roethlisberger have to keep a stern game face through critical comments as he walked onto the practice field?

It turns out Roethlisberger's reception was the exact opposite. On Saturday, Steeler Nation welcomed its quarterback with open arms as Roethlisberger received a loud ovation on the first day of training camp.

The response surprised Roethlisberger and brought a big smile to his face. Walking next to Hines Ward, Roethlisberger gave high fives to those in Steeler Nation, and it was clear the ovation lifted his spirits.

"It's neat to hear everybody cheering and seeing my jersey," Roethlisberger said. "It was a lot of encouragement."

Roethlisberger played on the first team Saturday morning, but rotated with Byron Leftwich with the starters in the afternoon. The coaching staff says there will be no set rotation as Roethlisberger serves a conditional six-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

With the initial day of practice out of the way, Roethlisberger hopes he can move forward. Everyone knows what he can do on the field -- and those skills were apparent again Saturday -- but Roethlisberger also says he's working hard to become a better person off the field.

His news conference Saturday seemed genuine and contrite. He answered a variety of questions openly and honestly. He also dedicated a good amount of time after practice signing autographs with many of the same fans who gave him a healthy welcome back to the field.

As far as the quarterback rotation this summer, it's anybody's guess. Roethlisberger is fine with that.

"I'm up for whatever they want," Roethlisberger said. "I'm helping any and all of the quarterbacks, receivers, tight ends, running backs. Byron and I are communicating a lot about different things we see out there ... Whatever rotation they want me to do, I’d run the scout team if they want me to. It wouldn't matter."

Overall, it was a good start to training camp for the embattled quarterback. The Steelers and Roethlisberger are in a tough spot, but both appear to be doing all the right things to try to move on from this unusual situation.

"I hope that we can get past this, get on the football field and win championships," Roethlisberger said. "That's always my goal, and that's not going to change. I want to get out there, and I want to win a championship this year. That's my ultimate goal."

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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