LATROBE, Pa. -- Thirteen months ago, I convened five NFL quarterbacks in a room in Lake Tahoe to have
The day before we were to sit down in a restaurant overlooking a golf course,
Since then, there have been allegations of sexual impropriety with a hotel concierge and with a 20-year-old Georgia college student, police investigations that dragged Roethlisberger's name through the mud in two states, and an NFL suspension for violating the league's personal-conduct policy. For being a cad, at the least.
I'd heard Roethlisberger spent his time away from football trying to go back from being Big Ben to a football player named Roethlisberger. The football establishment -- the Steelers, the rabid fans of the team, the public that never says no to a star quarterback -- combined with an immature kid to create a monster. Now, I'd heard, he'd spent time back with his father and stepmother, who recently moved from Ohio to Western Pennsylvania. He'd gotten some good counseling, not only from professional therapists but also from his first Steelers coach,
Roethlisberger used to avoid the local press or either talk down to them or give them nothing of himself; now he asks a couple of them for advice. He never was much of a teacher on the field to the young receivers. "Now he's helping every one of them,'' said wideout
"I can tell you he's making a valiant effort to get his life right,'' said teammate
I spoke with Roethlisberger for about 10 minutes. No great revelations. I was a little disappointed when I asked him what he felt he had to do to redeem himself publicly and he said, "Win. Win a championship.'' I meant redeeming himself off the field. But I think he wants to be known as a football player now, to his teammates and his fans, and not Big Ben the sideshow. He also knows talking about the situation and making promises about the kind of man he's going to be isn't going to change anyone's mind about him. He has to prove he's changed, every day, instead of going on Oprah. It's time for actions, not words.
"What have you learned about yourself through all of this?'' I wondered.
"'I've learned a lot,'' he said, tapping his heart. "But I'm going to keep it in here for now. Every life is a book, and I'm on a new chapter now. I like where I am.''
The Steelers will find out no later than the week before the season whether Roethlisberger will have his six-game NFL ban reduced to four by Commissioner
"So far he's handled his situation well,'' club president
And that's about the end of it for now. He's got to prove the Steelers made the right call by not jettisoning him at the major crisis point last winter. Rooney told me in March that Roethlisberger's actions would speak much louder than any words he said. Not much has changed in that regard -- except Roethlisberger is off to a good start doing the right things.
A note about preseason coverage after taking a few e-mail and Twitter shots for either not seeing preseason games over the weekend or giving them short shrift in the Monday column.
To see teams and spend preseason time with their players and coaches, I've found the best way to handle camps is to have conversations before and after practice. Doing that means I don't get to see a lot of the preseason games, because I'm usually traveling at night to make it to the next camp -- and when I'm in a hotel while the games are on, the hotels very rarely have NFL Network or anything but a network game on. (Although late Sunday night, after missing the Denver-Cincinnati game, I was given a pass to see the game streamed live on NFL.com, which I'll do some next weekend when I'm home cranking out more copy for
Seems if I ignore the games and write nothing, you call me for shirking my job. If I watch ESPN highlights and read the box scores and make some not-very-deep observations, I'm shallow.
In my job, I think it's more important to spend an hour with
Now for your e-mail:
• FAIR ENOUGH, BUT ...
Many people called me a walking, talking contradiction (and worse) over just this point. Fair. But do you really think sitting for two hours and 46 minutes and doing nothing but pondering the world in a Starbucks is the same thing as a football GM meditating for 15 minutes in his closet? I don't. If
• HE'S DOWN ON BRADY QUINN, AS IS DENVER, I WOULD ASSUME.
I don't know, other than to say the Broncos have liked the adjustments Quinn has made in his game in the offseason. He slowed down his manic delivery, for one thing. But he obviously has to play better than he did Sunday night to have a chance to ever see the field in Denver.
• HE DOESN'T LIKE TONY DUNGY.
I disagree with Tony on
• IT MAKES SENSE, WAYNE.
Certainly does. I thought of that too, and it's certainly possible. But I think regardless of what the future holds for Rosenfels, the Vikings need to get Jackson as many snaps with the first-team offense as possible in this preseason. He's thrown only 21 passes since the 2008 season, and even if Favre were returning, how can you be sure he's going to last the season? It's incumbent on them to get Jackson time with the guys he might have to play with at some point this fall.
• REVIS, SCHMEVIS.
Duly noted. You are not alone.
• NEVER GOT IT PUBLISHED, OR FINISHED.
Sure. Paul was in the process of finishing the memoir when he was struck by the strokes in November 2008, and also in the process of finding a publisher. I know it was frustrating to him to not have gotten it done on either end. The next time I speak to
• APPLES, ORANGES.
What I wrote was that Tate was the "biggest loss of the preseason weekend.'' Warren was hurt early in training camp with a hip injury that resulted in him being placed on injured-reserve late in the week. He never played in the preseason. I agree that the loss of Warren is bigger for the Patriots than the loss of Tate to the Texans, but I think you can see the difference there.