EXCLUSIVE: Ben Roethlisberger Won't Become Helmet Advocate

ByABC News via logo
July 14, 2006, 7:50 AM

July 14, 2006 — -- A month ago, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger scared his team -- also family, friends and fans -- when he was seriously hurt in a motorcycle accident.

In an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America," the quarterback told Robin Roberts why he had forgotten his helmet that fateful day and why he wouldn't become an advocate for helmet safety.

Roethlisberger suffered a 9-inch laceration to the head, multiple facial fractures, and serious knee damage June 12 when a car ran into him in downtown Pittsburgh.

He expects to make a full recovery and be ready for training camp, which begins July 28 at St. Vincent College, near Latrobe, Pa.

"I'm doing well," Roethlisberger said. "I'm feeling a little bit better every day, and I'm still amazing the doctors every time I go to see them 'cause they are just amazed at how fast I'm progressing."

The reason why the youngest quarterback ever to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory wasn't wearing his helmet that day -- a fact that baffles many -- was simply that he forgot.

"You know, it's one of those things that sometimes I did wear a helmet and sometimes I didn't," Roethlisberger said.

"Actually, that morning I was on my way to work out, and I had just gotten my bike all custom done. It was painted up, and it was really nice. And I was supposed to take my helmet that day with me to take it to get it painted to match the bike so I could wear it all the time when I rode that bike. And I totally forgot it that day," he said.

Don't look for Roethlisberger, however, to do any public service announcements about the importance of wearing a helmet.

"I don't think that that's my place," he said. "You know, I think that some people feel that, you know, I probably should be doing that and being a big advocate for that. But for me, you know, I'm going to let people make their own decision 'cause I think that's what it's about."

Right now, Roethlisberger said, he doesn't even want to think about riding a motorcycle again. "Well, you know what, once this season's over, maybe I'll start thinking about if I'm going to ride again," he said. "But … the season's too close. Training camp is less than three weeks away, and I don't want to [focus] on anything but getting better and getting ready for training camp. Because that's what I do is football, and that's what's most important on my mind."

Roethlisberger is lucky to be alive, let alone returning to football so soon.

A quick-thinking paramedic noticed that a slit vein or artery was draining blood right into Roethlisberger's stomach and stopped it seconds before it would have killed him, he told ESPN Thursday.

The quarterback said on "Good Morning America" that he had felt a "little invincible" the day before the accident.

"You know, I'm coming off of two pretty good seasons in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl and, you know, 24 years old and maybe I felt a little invincible," he said. "And this was God's way of saying, 'Hey, I can take it away from you at any time, so you better back off a little bit.'"

When he realized he had been in an accident, Roethlisberger said, he hoped it wasn't really happening.

"And I just remember, you know, basically, you know, crying and saying to [the paramedic], 'Please tell me this is not happening and this is just a nightmare,'" he said. "And he's telling me, 'No. You're going to be OK though.' And I just kept telling him, 'Please tell me it's not true.'"

Roethlisberger said he was sorry for worrying his friends, his family and his fans.

"I do feel bad for letting my fans down," he said. "Steeler fans are the best fans in all of sports, and I feel bad for worrying them about me. But I want them all to know that I'll be OK."

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