Steelers QB Stable, but Questions About His Judgment Remain

ByABC News via via logo

June 13, 2006— -- Despite warnings from many people, including coach Bill Cower, Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rode his motorcycle without a helmet yesterday and got into a serious accident.

He is in stable but critical condition after surgery that took approximately seven hours. Doctors said Roethlisberger was coherent and talking when he went into surgery yesterday. Roethlisberger remains in the hospital, reportedly with a broken jaw, a broken nose, a 9-inch laceration to his head and knee injuries.

The quarterback was riding a 1995 Suzuki Hayabusa -- widely considered in the motorcycle world as one of the fastest and most powerful bikes you can buy. In tests it has reached 194 mph. Police won't say how fast they believed Roethlisberger was going.

"All of the fractures were successfully repaired -- his brain, spine, chest and abdomen appear to be without serious injury," said Dr. Daniel Pituch, chief of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Mercy Hospital.

It was just this past February that Roethlisberger, 24, became the youngest quarterback ever to lead a team to a Super Bowl victory when the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10. He has a six-year, $40 million contract -- including a $9 million signing bonus -- with the Steelers. It contains no specific clause about riding a motorcycle, according to the team.

One eyewitness who was at the scene of the accident in Pittsburgh on Monday said she saw Roethlisberger run into a car while it was making a left-hand turn.

"He rolled over the top of the car -- rolled, rolled, rolled. Then his head hit the top of the sidewalk when he came down," she said.

Witnesses said Roethlisberger was unrecognizable after the crash.

Despite the admonishments of his coach and other NFL heavyweights like former Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who told Roethlisberger to "park the motorcycle," Roethlisberger, whose mother died in a car accident when he was 8, said he had no intention of wearing a helmet last year.

"If it was the law, I'd definitely have one on every time I rode, but it's not the law, and I know I don't have to and you're just more free when you're out there with no helmet on," he told ESPN.

Roethlisberger is one of several athletes who have run into trouble on motorcycles. Last year Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. tore knee ligaments and was lost for the season after an accident.

"One of the biggest names in sports right now, winning the Super Bowl at the age of 23, warned by his coach, and yet he still goes out and rides a motorcycle," said USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan.

It is still unclear if Roethlisberger will be ready for training camp, which starts in July.

ABC News' David Muir contributed to this story.

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