Steelers QB in collision

Roethlisberger, reportedly not wearing helmet, in serious condition

June 13, 2006|By BILL ORDINE | BILL ORDINE,SUN REPORTER

On Ben Roethlisberger's official Web site, there are a handful of photos of the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback astride a gleaming motorcycle.

And there's no helmet to be seen.

Roethlisberger's affinity for big, powerful cycles and his refusal to wear a helmet while riding have become part of the NFL star's swashbuckling image. But that mind-set appeared to contribute to the injuries the 24-year-old football star suffered yesterday when his Suzuki Hayabusa, a high-performance motorcycle, collided with a Chrysler New Yorker on a Pittsburgh street. He was not wearing a helmet, according to reports.

Just four months after leading the Steelers to a Super Bowl championship, Roethlisberger underwent surgery at a Pittsburgh hospital for injuries suffered in the accident. Dr. Daniel Pituch, who led the team, said Roethlisberger was in serious condition but stable.

The quarterback suffered a broken jaw and nose, his agent Leigh Steinberg told the Associated Press. ESPN also reported injuries to the player's teeth and knee and a head laceration.

Four doctors operated on Roethlisberger for seven hours to treat multiple facial fractures and "all of the fractures were successfully repaired," Dr. Harry W. Sell, chairman of the surgery department at Mercy Hospital, told reporters late last night.

Said Dr. Larry Jones, chief of trauma at Mercy Hospital: "He was talking to me before he left for the operating room. He's coherent. He's making sense. He knows what happened. He knows where he is. From that standpoint, he's very stable."

The collective bargaining agreement that governs contracts between players and NFL teams provides for a standard clause that prohibits players from engaging in activity other than football "which may involve a significant risk of personal injury."

If a player is unable to play because of a non-football injury or illness, the club is not obligated to pay his salary. And if a player misses an entire season, his contract is "tolled," meaning that the missed year is not counted toward fulfilling the term of the deal. Further, if a player has received an upfront bonus, the team can seek to recover a prorated portion of the bonus money.

However, none of those contract implications have been raised so far concerning Roethlisberger.

"On behalf of everyone within the Steelers organization, I want to express my concern for Ben Roethlisberger," Steelers president Art Rooney II said. "I am sure Ben knows that we are praying for his complete recovery. So far, we have been encouraged by the early reports from the medical team at Mercy Hospital."

The accident occurred when Roethlisberger's motorcycle collided with the Chrysler, which was driven by a 62-year-old woman, at the intersection of Second Avenue and the 10th Street Bridge in downtown Pittsburgh. The car had made a left turn, and Roethlisberger, unable to stop, struck the passenger's side, according to the Steelers' Web site, which cited published reports. Television images of the car showed windshield damage. The quarterback was thrown from the motorcycle.

Police did not release the name of the driver and charges had not been filed.

Roethlisberger's motorcycle riding drew attention last offseason after Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow suffered shoulder and knee injuries in a cycle accident that cost him the 2005 season.

After Winslow was hurt, Steelers coach Bill Cowher talked to Roethlisberger about riding without a helmet. Although the quarterback didn't want to openly defy the coach, he didn't take Cowher's advice, either.

"That's just the way it goes," Roethlisberger said last summer when asked about his bareheaded riding. "I just want to ride."

Offseason injuries have derailed many athletes' careers and altered their teams' fortunes.

In 1967, Boston pitcher Jim Lonborg earned the American League Cy Young Award, led the Red Sox to the pennant and put in a gritty performance in the World Series that was won by the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. But in the offseason, Lonborg broke his leg skiing and never regained his Cy Young form.

More recently, third baseman Aaron Boone's career with the New York Yankees was ended shortly after he was a hero in the 2003 American League Championship Series. Boone's 11th-inning home run against Boston lifted the Yankees to the World Series, but a few months later, he hurt his knee in a basketball game. As a result, New York released him and it wasn't until the 2005 season that he signed with the Cleveland Indians and swore off basketball.

Another motorcycle casualty was basketball's Jay Williams, a star at Duke and the No. 2 overall draft choice of the Chicago Bulls in 2002. After his rookie season, he suffered a fractured pelvis and torn knee ligaments in a motorcycle accident. Williams hasn't played since and has been visiting NBA teams lately, hoping to get back into the league.

bill.ordine@baltsun.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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