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Old 08-11-2006, 12:22 PM   #1
siss
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Default SI Article about Ben

The is actually made me cry then laugh then get excited for the season. I'll even highlight the best parts for those of you who think its a crime to like one player.



'Lucky to be alive'
Big Ben thankful to be playing again after accident

LATROBE, Pa. -- This one won't be quite the meaningless exhibition game for Ben Roethlisberger. How could it?

Two months to the day since the motorcycle accident that sent him into seven hours of surgery and gave him a new appreciation for his magic-carpet ride of a life, the third-year Steelers quarterback will be back doing what he loves to do on Saturday afternoon in Arizona.

And this time he'll be wearing a helmet.

"I honestly don't know what's going to happen, or exactly how I'll feel," Roethlisberger told me this week, looking ahead to the Steelers' preseason opener against the Cardinals. "I don't know if I'll take a moment to reminisce about where I've been these past two months or not. I could put the pads on, step onto that field and break down in tears. But I know I'll say an extra prayer of thanks and be grateful just to be out there playing football again. I'm lucky to be alive.''

Sound a little clich?? Maybe. But it probably wouldn't if you were the one flying over those handlebars on that morning in June. Roethlisberger returned to the theme of feeling fortunate to still be living and breathing no fewer than four times in our 10-minute talk. From every indication we have so far, his accident and brush with death didn't change anything significant about his football career. But it changed almost everything about his life.

"I do appreciate everything more now," he said. "I really do. I'm having a lot of fun. I still get mad if I do something wrong or make a mistake on the field. But when I'm not in that moment, and I'm off the field, I say, 'Wow, I'm playing football again.' The biggest thing is I really am just happy to be alive and having fun again. The whole thing has made me realize, 'I'm playing football for a career. How tough can things be?'"

Roethlisberger's rapid recovery from his injuries -- a broken jaw, broken nose and orbital bones, concussion, facial lacerations and the loss of a lot of blood and two teeth -- has inspired his teammates and coaches to use words like "amazing'' and "miraculous'' to describe his return to form in Steelers training camp. And for once it doesn't pass for the typical hyperbole that's often heard in sports.

On Monday, Roethlisberger was so sharp in practice, completing every pass he attempted, including five for touchdowns. What choice does Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher have but to play him for the first series or two against the Cardinals? To do anything other would be sending the signal that Roethlisberger's game is still slowly returning, when the reality is anything but.

"I've seen him in the course of two years have a couple different injuries that he seemed to heal from very quickly," Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. "I know this is a different situation, but he's amazing, what he's done. The first week of camp, there was a little bit of getting back into it and feeling his way. More so from a point of not having had all his conditioning. His legs got tired on him. But everything seems to be rolling along pretty good right now.

"He's a very competitive person, and it's very important to him to continue the way he finished last year. And you see that on the practice field, and that's a very exciting thing. He's a unique young man."

Roethlisberger's post-accident liquid diet helped him shed 15 pounds or so from his 250-pound frame, but that was weight he said he intended to lose before camp anyway. "He thinks he's faster," quipped Whisenhunt.

To see Roethlisberger today you'd to never know he was hospitalized for three days after hitting the windshield of a car face-first. He said he expected all along he would start at Arizona, and he's raring to take the field again, six months and a week after Pittsburgh finished off Seattle in Super Bowl XL despite his lackluster performance.

"When I talked to coach Cowher, I told him, 'I'm ready to go. Let's do it,'" Roethlisberger said. "I do feel blessed. The Lord has blessed me and is working through me. For the most part, my body feels good, my arm feels good. I'm really surprised at how well my arm is holding up. I didn't know if it'd be ready to go on time. I didn't know if it'd be fatigued or what at this point. But it feels really good.

"In fact, my body probably feels as good as it ever has going into camp. I've been on a different regimen this year, swimming laps and doing different things. And I do feel that extra 15 pounds off me. I'm not going to run a 4.2 now, but it does make a difference."

Cowher still wants to see Roethlisberger pick himself up after that first real hit of the season. Then he'll know Big Ben is all the way back. "Until he takes his first hit, there's going to be a little apprehension there,'' Cowher said. "But mentally he's been great. I don't think the accident really changed anything more than it gave him an appreciation for his health and the good fortune and how blessed he really is. I think anybody would [appreciate it more] after what he's been through. Any time anybody deals with a life-threatening situation, it has a way of putting things back in proper perspective."

This much we know: Roethlisberger's sense of humor has survived the offseason intact. Told of Cowher's eagerness to see him involved in that first on-field collision of the season, Roethlisberger gave it the old easy-for-him-to-say approach.

"People have said that about quarterbacks for a long time, that you don't get hit in training camp, and until you take that first hit, the season doesn't really start," he said. "But hey, if we can avoid a hit as long as possible, that'd be great. If I could go a whole season without getting hit, I'll take it. But I'm not scared. I'm not worried about getting hit. I'm ready for that."

He's ready, Steelers fans. His ordeal over, his return will be complete come Saturday in Arizona, when football again becomes the focus and a career briefly interrupted resumes. For Roethlisberger, the moment has been long enough in coming. And it adds plenty of meaning to an otherwise insignificant exhibition game.
"When I'm out there, I'll take it all in, soak up the moment and be thankful just to be on the field again," he said. "I know it'll feel pretty good. And I know every day now I count my blessings to be alive."
__________________
"It seems every year there is some reason they are trying to doubt me. Small school, I was playing as a rookie and now this. I?m looking forward to proving to people that I?m up to the task."
~Ben Roethlisberger~

He's ready, Steelers fans. His ordeal over, his return will be complete come Saturday in Arizona, when football again becomes the focus and a career briefly interrupted resumes.
~SI aticle 2006~
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