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July 14, 2006

Ben Roethlisberger


PHIL WEIDINGER: We'd like to introduce our special guest today, Super Bowl winning quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. Ben, welcome.


Q. Let's start with how are you feeling and are there day to day physical effects that you're feeling from the accident at this point?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Well, I'm doing great. Every day I wake up and I feel a little bit better. I feel I look a little bit better every day. The redness gets out of my eyes. Every time I go in for a checkup, I surprise my doctors say, they say I'm way ahead of schedule. Day to day, no, I feel every day when I wake up, I do feel a little bit better. My body feels great. Every once in a while I feel a little bit of swelling still in my mouth but even that goes down every day.

Q. Do you sit there and think about what you've been through last month, how close you came as you said to perhaps dying and now you're back, out here playing golf, and you're actually looking ahead to a new season, does it just do you just sit there and say, "Wow, what's happened to me," do you think about it much?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I think the accident was kind of God's way of saying: Ben, maybe you need to step back a little bit. Maybe take a step back. Maybe I was taking things for granted a little bit too much.

Maybe people criticize me for being out here, but I'm trying to live my normal life now and I need to get back to that. I'm so blessed that the American Century Championship had me out here and let me play in this. I'm just thankful and thank God that I can be out here and do this.

Q. What have you learned about yourself through this whole ordeal that maybe you didn't know about yourself before it happened?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Just that I need to I can be hurt, you know. It can end in a split second. I think I've said it before, it's almost like you get a feeling of invincibility. I've talked to Joe Theisman about it yesterday. He goes: When you're on the field you have to have that. But it's almost hard not to take it off the field because people and fans, you know in Pittsburgh, it's even worse because they put you on a pedestal. They elevate you so much to this level, and sometimes you forget that you are human, and I think that it's really helped me remember that I am.

Q. Do you still plan to ride a motorcycle in the future?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: You know what, right now I'm not thinking about that. I've said it before, it's all football for me right now. Now I know I'm healthy and now I know I'm healed up. I'm just working on getting out there and getting ready to play, because to me, that's what's most important, being out there for those guys, being ready, being 100% by the first day of training camp and that way I don't miss a beat.

Q. Because of the sort of graphic nature and description of your accident, some of the earlier accounts might have been even worse than it actually really was. Do people look at you like you're a ghost; like, how can a guy survive that?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I get that a lot. Actually the minor details that I did give were not graphic from what actually really did happen. I could get into it pretty bad but it's not fun.

My own teammates don't recognize me at first. I was just down somewhere with a bunch of the guys for an event and a couple of them walked right by me and waved to me like I was a fan, and it was pretty funny. Obviously I cut my hair and that was one thing. But most people expect me to be, you know, pretty much totally messed up in the face. I had plates split in my face; I got hit by a car; I just feel truly blessed to be this way.

Q. What about, you talked about that a little bit more about the physical side of it. When you look in the mirror, I mean, are you pleased with what you're seeing at this point? Do you think the girls are going to be okay with this?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Well, I remember when I could first open my eye, the second day after the accident and being in the bathroom, looking into a mirror and thinking: "This is ugly. I mean, am I ever going to look even close to normal again?"

The doctor is like, don't worry, it's just swelling.

I have to give a lot of credit and thanks to the doctor because they did such an awesome job. They had me in surgery for the first time for a long time. I heard eight, nine, ten hours like that because they wanted everything to be right the first time. I never expected to look I think I look pretty normal, at least the way I was. So I never expected to be that way and I'm thankful for it.

Q. Have you had any flashbacks or nightmares to exactly what took place when you were in the accident?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: No. People have been asking me: Do you sit there and think, what if; or are you waking up in the middle of the night sweating, thinking about a car hitting you? No, I really don't. I'm thankful to be alive, first of all. And really all I do I talk about it more than anything. I'm not one to sit here and say, what if this or what if that, why did God do this to me, whatever. That's not who I am.

I'll sit there and talk to my friends and family about it like man, can you believe that, isn't that crazy like what happened. And we'll say, I missed the windshield by three inches; what would have happened if I would have hit my head on the windshield. I'm not going to sit here and second guess what happened.

Q. What have you heard from teammates and what have you said to teammates?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Well, the first thing I said to all my teammates was I'm sorry for getting putting them through this and for worrying them and just taking the chance of being hurt and not being able to play for them.

But it's been nothing but an outpouring of love from every single one of them. I've got letters, guys visiting the hospital, calls, flowers everything. Someone asked me if I was surprised and I said yes and no. I was surprised a little bit that so many people would on a team that would have such an out pouring. I'm not surprised because of how close we are. We have such a close brotherhood on this team that it doesn't surprise me how much they are really opening their arms for me.

Q. Some people are looking at you almost like a medical miracle that you're here this weekend. What's the schedule now, what will you do before training camp, and because you're here already, football is not the most important thing after what you've been through, but is there a chance you would be ready to go first day and take part in the run test?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: There's no chance: I will be ready. I guarantee I'll be ready first day.

My goal is to get it to where it's Coach's decision on what I do. I want to be 100%; Coach, I'm ready to go, do you want me to go. There's where I'm going to be.

Football is I'm here trying to live what I normally do. I was behind the hotel of the casino the other day running. I've been working out for two weeks now throwing, running, lifting. I'm doing it while I'm here playing golf. I feel that I'll be as close to 100%. My goal is to be 100%, and I think I can get there and if not, I'll be 99%.

Q. I'm just curious, there's obviously no physical signs of what you've been through from the front, but do you have stitches now, and how did they get the plates in?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I do not have any stitches in. What you see is what you get. I'm not hiding anything under a shirt or anything. This is pretty much it.

I can tell you how they got the plates in, but I don't know, it's kind of gruesome. I'll save that for you. (Laughter).

Q. Part two if I may. Are going to let Billy Joe Tolliver push you around and call you a rookie this year?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: No, he can't do that anymore. I mean, he can if he wants to.

Q. Did you have the doctors give you the whole description of everything they did? If it was me, I wouldn't want to hear about it.

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Yes, slowly, I go back, I have about two or three doctors' appointments a week at least, and that includes dentists, face, all my doctors and I continue to ask questions. Actually, the last time I was there before I left, they gave me a skeleton and they had the exact plates of where everything is. So now I know exactly where all the plates are, how big they are and everything and where they are in my face.

Q. How many plates?


Q. You talked about the needing to feel invincible on the football field. A lot of people be are wondering that, that first time when you've got a big linebacker coming at you, are you going to be gunshy?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Well, any time a big linebacker is coming at me I get a little gunshy. But that's what people ask, I've got that a lot: Do you think you're going to change your style of play. And just like being me, I'm a free style, free spirit on the field and off the field. I don't foresee me sliding instead of diving or trying to step out of bounds instead of take a hit. That's not who I am. I'm sure it's going to hurt. It always does hurt when I get hit. But I don't foresee any problems or me being any more gunshy out there playing.

Q. And your conversation with Coach Cowher about that free spirit business?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I'm so lucky to be playing for a guy like that. I mean, it's absolutely awesome. He said, you know, people have heard it, you're a free spirit, that's what makes you special and makes you who you are, and I love that free spiritness, but you'd better be careful from now on.

Q. While you may not be changing your style of play, but I get the sense listening to you, you sound like a different person, maybe you may not approach football differently, but are you approaching the way you act and the way you talk to people and the way you look at things differently than before the accident.

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I think so. I'm appreciating things more. Don't take this and run with it but I don't hate doing interviews now and I don't (laughter) I talk to my family more and hug. When I see a lot of these guys I haven't seen in a while, instead of shaking their hand, I'll give them a hug. I'm just be thankful for every breath I get to take now.

Q. Were you aware of the criticism and threats that the woman received that was involved in the accident with you? Did you feel like you needed to say anything publicly to maybe get people to leave her along?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Yeah, I heard some of it. I didn't hear a lot. I heard a couple things here and there about the way that she was getting criticized, threats, this and that. You know, that's that, and that's sad. Obviously it was her fault, the accident but I'm not going to sit here and blame her and criticize her. I don't have any hatred or bad wishes towards her. I forgive her for obviously the accident. You know, hopefully all that stuff's stopped and she can get on with her life the best she can.

Q. When did you make the decision that you were going to be able to play, were there any concerns that you would not make it here it week and is it somewhat therapeutic to just get out there and get those competitive juices doing?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I tell you what, this is one of my favorite events. And I've been blessed, this is my third year to be out here at the American Century Championship and you know, when I talked to Jon Miller and asked him, can I still come out and play; you know I feel confident that I can get out and do it, and my score might not be that good but at least I have an excuse now.

This is therapeutic. I was going to do this whether I got in the accident or not. So I'm just trying to live a normal life so. I think by being out here and doing this, it's helping me do that and be relaxed before camp 7 starts.

Q. You talked about the Pittsburgh fans and how loyal they are, can you estimate maybe how many letters or how many boxes or what you've received since the accident?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I have gotten such an amazing outpouring of love. Got a couple bad letters, obviously people that criticize you, but I got so much stuff that it really helped me get through the first that first week when I was just laid up. I couldn't move; I didn't want to move. Me and my parents sat there and we opened letters and read the cards and it really made you feel special.

It's hard to say. I would say hundreds of thousands of letters, and we read every one of them.

Q. Is there anything about you that feels different around your face since you've had this surgery, maybe a ringing or something that doesn't feel like it did before the surgery?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Nothing except a little bit of swelling on my top lip and bottom lip where which is where the scars are from how they got in my face.

But no, my eyesight is just as good as it was. I can hear well. No dizziness. Everything is good up here outside of just a little bit of swelling right there, which they say it feels better every day, and they say it will just continue to get better.

Q. There are those who would advocate the repeal of Pennsylvania's law that says you can ride without a helmet, and would look to you and think, well, maybe Ben will become a spokesperson for us. What is your position on Pennsylvania's law about helmets, and will you get involved in that debate?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I am luckily not a lawmaker. I'm not a politician. I'm a football player. I believe that people have a right, I'm not going so sit here and be an advocate and not going to say I want people to wear helmets. I'm not going to be on billboards with words about helmets and stuff like that. I think it's people's choice what they want to do, and I think as long as Pennsylvania has that law, people have the right to make a choice. If Pennsylvania wants to go to a helmet law, then that's what they want to do.

Q. Speaking of helmets, will you wear anything different on the football field?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: We're not sure. There's a couple different styles of helmets, and we're going to just look at a couple different ones, what feels the best, what's the best protective one. And we're not going to have anything custom made; we don't need to. We feel that everything is healing up well that I can probably wear I want to wear the same helmet I've been wearing, but they may want me to wear the new helmet people are wearing now. We'll see what happens with that.

Q. You mentioned before you were working out. People are curious, how does the arm feel, legs, everything feels good?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Everything feels great. I actually lost the weight that I intended to lose. I didn't mean to lose it this way, but I lost the weight. I'm down to where I want to be. My arm feels great, knees, everything. My knee actually has less swelling in it now than it did before the accident, and that's a good thing. I feel great physically.

Q. Has your diet changed at all? Are you eating whatever you want?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I'm back to eating whatever I want now. Obviously at the beginning it was milkshakes and protein shakes and stuff like that, but I am at the point now where I can anything I want.

Q. Chunky soup?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Campbell's Chunky Soup. (Laughter)

Q. Have you had any interplay with Carson Palmer since you've been here? Have you had a chance to talk?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: For a second yesterday he was doing a bunch of interviews and he said, "Ben, it's great to see you here." I've heard some reports that he's doing very well so I told him congratulations on getting better. I told him I said hopefully we're both ready to go by when we play each other for the first time.

Q. Will the Steelers have any restrictions on your activities off the field, motorcycle riding, sky diving, anything like that?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: It has not been brought up. I don't know. I guess that's something when they will probably want to talk about when the next contract comes around. So that's something that has not been brought up yet.

Q. But the motorcycle is parked until after this football season?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Oh, most definitely.

Q. You said in an ESPN interview that you forgot your helmet. So you had been using it off and on?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: The thing is, I did wear a helmet a lot. It wasn't like I never rode with a helmet on. I told some people that I got this bike the bike that I was on that day just got customized. It just got a custom paint job and this and that, and I was supposed to take the helmet and get it painted the exact, to match. I was going to wear it every time I rode the bike, and that's the day I was supposed to take it and I didn't take it.

Q. The golf tournament this weekend, how do you think you're going to do?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Boy, I don't know. I'm hoping, I played a good round yesterday, I had a good, good team and I felt good out there. I've got to go out today and I've got to start early. You know I've got to get ahead early.

But I'm out there just to have fun. I'm thankful to be alive and out here in a beautiful place; Lake Tahoe in the background; it's an awesome golf course and great tournament. I'm thankful to be here.

Q. What have the fans been like here? Is it a lot of support each and every hole?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: It has. A lot of shock, "Oh, you look a lot better than we thought you would."

But yeah, there's been a lot of support. It almost seems like nothing ever happened at times.

Q. I have been goaded by many people to ask you: How is your thumb?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: It's good. I don't have any pain in it right now.

Q. How long was it before you could actually eat real food, and although you don't have any concerns about taking a hit, have the doctors said anything?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: The food part, it's been about last week I could start. Because now my jaw is strong enough I could bite in and chew stuff, so that's probably been about two weeks now.

And the concern from the doctors, they have not expressed any with me or my family. They really feel that everything is really progressing. They say I'm way ahead of schedule. So hopefully we can continue to keep progressing, and I don't foresee any problems from their side, either.

Q. How hard is it going to be to concentrate on golf when you're playing with Ray Romano today?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Well, I remember Ray playing last year and a big following, and it seemed like a comedy show last year. So I'm going to have to focus in and try to focus on my golf game.

End of FastScripts.

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