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Roethlisberger: Trying to make most of 'new chapter'

| Friday, June 4, 2010

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Thursday he intends to make the most of an opportunity to redeem himself in a "new chapter" in his life.

"I've spent a lot of time evaluating and looking at my life, on and off the field, and I think this is kind of the time for me to close the chapter of the last couple of years of my life and move on," Roethlisberger said after practice. "Looking forward to the second chance, second opportunity. Not just in football, but in life. I think that's kind of what's more important."

Roethlisberger talked to reporters for the first time since National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for the first six games of the 2010 season.

The incident that led to his suspension -- a 20-year-old college student's accusation that Roethlisberger sexually assaulted her March 5 in Milledgeville, Ga. -- caused him to take stock of his personal life, he said. Authorities in Georgia did not file charges against Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger, accused of sexual assault in a civil lawsuit filed by a woman in Las Vegas last year, said he is working with Goodell to make "changes, corrections" to his life. With good behavior, his suspension could be reduced to four games.

"It's been neat to really evaluate my life and spend time with my family and kind of refigure what's important in life," he said. "That's my evaluating, what I need to do."

He did not say specifically what changes he has made.

The more than 40 reporters gathered at Steelers' headquarters did not get a chance to press him for details, or talk to him about much else. After making an opening statement, Roethlisberger answered two questions before a team official ended the session.

One image expert said the controlled setting in which Roethlisberger spoke was a good strategy.

"Had he done the in-depth interview, the focus would be a lot more on the substance of what he was saying, rather than the image he's trying to project," said Gene Grabowski, senior vice president at Levick Strategic Communications, a Washington firm specializing in crisis communications. "Instead, the story is about how he is smiling, and that's a positive image.

"If he wants to, later on -- and he probably should -- he can sit down and do some interviews and get into some depth. He's softened up his image."

Roethlisberger immediately struck a conciliatory tone with reporters, saying he knew how long they waited to talk to him.

"I just wanted to let you guys know how good it is to be back on the field. I love football to death," he said. Goodell cleared him to return to practice late last week.

His teammates were supportive, he said: "It's been great to read and hear from those guys. Not just text messages and calls they send to me, but to read the things in the media that they say. That's why I say it's great to be out here with my brothers, because they really are family to me."

Kicker Jeff Reed, who's dealt with image problems and off-the-field incidents, said he's happy to see Roethlisberger moving forward.

"He's a great quarterback and a really good person," Reed said. "Everyone has their share of mistakes, and it's how you respond, and I'm sure he'll respond fine."

Reed disclosed that like Roethlisberger, he underwent an NFL-mandated psychological evaluation after police charged him with four misdemeanors last October, including disorderly conduct and public drunkenness, after a run-in with officers outside a North Shore bar. Reed did not reveal details of his evaluation. He was cleared of all charges in April after completing 40 hours of community service with the Salvation Army.

Earlier last year, Reed paid a fine of $543.50 after police accused him of damaging a paper towel dispenser and harassing employees at a Westmoreland County convenience store, a few weeks after the Steelers beat Arizona in the Super Bowl.

Reed said negative publicity following his and Roethlisberger's incidents doesn't tell the whole story.

"The thing that bothers me at times, that goes unnoticed, is all of the positive things that this team does for the community," he said. "I probably do two (charity appearances) a week ... but you never hear about (me) until I get in trouble. It's always 'What a bad guy,' and stuff like that."

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