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
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,"
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."