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|07-31-2010, 05:04 PM||#1|
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Roethlisberger practices with Steelers starters
LATROBE, Pa. (AP)—His No. 7 hasn’t changed. Neither has his place in the offense. Ben Roethlisberger(notes) is the Steelers’ starting quarterback, and that was quickly evident during their first practice of training camp.
What is different, teammate Hines Ward(notes) said, is Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger, whose image and popularity were badly damaged during a March night of barhopping in which he was accused of assaulting a college student, took the first public steps Saturday in trying to reconnect with his teammates.
Roethlisberger, admittedly not a good teammate at times during his first six NFL seasons, was more outgoing and animated than usual during the first of the day’s two practices. Ward said the disgraced quarterback was clearly working to improve his relationship with his teammates.
Drawing a six-game suspension—a punishment that could be trimmed to four— and the public reaction to his aberrant behavior in Georgia apparently convinced Roethlisberger that changes were needed, some teammates suggested.
“For many years, people didn’t know what was really going on with Ben,” Ward said. “He’s starting to open up and be more personal with guys. Today he was talking to everybody. I really think he understands the situation. I think you could really see the excitement in him, competing and playing football again. … He’s working on trying to improve himself.”
During the Steelers’ offseason workouts, Ward said Roethlisberger should apologize to his teammates for getting suspended. However, Ward said no such apology was made during a busy team meeting Friday night.
“The whole apology thing, I’m tired of talking about it. He publicly apologized to everybody (by issuing a statement),” Ward said. “He doesn’t have to come up to me and apologize. He’s been through enough already.”
This is the third time in five years that Roethlisberger’s off-field behavior has caused major problems for the Steelers.
They missed the playoffs following a Super Bowl victory after Roethlisberger was badly injured during a motorcycle crash in 2006. The same scenario occurred last season after a former Nevada hotel employee filed a civil suit accusing him of assaulting her. That case remains unresolved.
While Roethlisberger will practice less than usual because Byron Leftwich(notes) also needs time with the regulars before the season starts, it’s not as if he’ll suddenly become a backup. Roethlisberger and Leftwich split time with the starters Saturday, with Roethlisberger running the opening series.
Because Roethlisberger can’t be with the team during his suspension, the only practice time he will get until October will occur during camp.
“I think coach Tomlin did a great job of putting Byron and him both with the first group,” Ward said. “It’s still training camp for Ben and he has to go out there and get his rapport with his teammates.”
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said nobody should have been surprised to watch Roethlisberger practicing with the starters.
“He’s our quarterback and everybody else is fighting for a job,” Arians said. “We’ll switch it every day cause he’s got to get with the young receivers and the other guys have to get with the veteran receivers.”
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