Roethlisberger may be out of hospital by end of week

Updated: June 14, 2006, 6:16 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger's broken jaw did not have to be wired shut, a factor that could hasten his recovery from his scary motorcycle accident, and the Steelers quarterback got out of his hospital bed Wednesday to talk with teammates and family members.

Roethlisberger's doctors said a second round of tests again showed no brain injuries, although he has a concussion. Initial CT scans taken shortly after Roethlisberger's motorcycle collided with a car at a busy Pittsburgh intersection Monday morning also showed no apparent problems.

"The results of this second and final scan confirm our previous findings that Mr. Roethlisberger has suffered no brain injury," said Dr. Larry Jones, the chief of Mercy Hospital's trauma unit.

Because Roethlisberger's multiple facial fractures, broken nose and broken upper and lower jaw are being held in place by screws and 2-inch titanium plates, he can eat soft foods -- and not be restricted to liquids -- during an estimated six to eight week recovery period.

"We take a titanium plate, bend it and adapt it to the contours of the facial bones and then secure it in place with screws," surgeon Daniel Pituch said. "This kind of state-of-the-art technology allowed us to successfully treat Mr. Roethlisberger's facial fractures."

As a result, the 240-pound Roethlisberger probably won't lose as much weight as he would have on an all-liquid diet. The Steelers have not given a timetable for his return, but they are optimistic he will be ready for their Sept. 7 opener against Miami.

One of the team's concerns was how long Roethlisberger would need to regain his weight and strength after being unable to work out for what might be an extended period.

Roethlisberger got out of his bed to greet visitors, less than 48 hours after being admitted to a hospital located only a few blocks from the crash site. Based on the hospital's projection that the 24-year-old Roethlisberger could be sent home within three to five days, he could be discharged as early as Thursday.

Players who visited with Roethlisberger said he is upbeat, and they are convinced he will be back quickly and with no diminished skills. Counting the playoffs, the Steelers have a 27-4 record with Roethlisberger at quarterback and have advanced to two AFC championship games and won a Super Bowl during his two seasons as a starter.

But while Roethlisberger won't have to be on a soup-only diet, he missed out on a $2 million Campbell's Chunky Soup commercial that began filming Wednesday at Heinz Field with other Steelers players. Roethlisberger and his stepmother, Brenda, were to have been the stars of the commercial.

The repercussions of Roethlisberger's accident already are rippling across the NFL, with players and agents predicting all teams will begin insert clauses restricting motorcycle riding and other such activities into all player contracts.

Roethlisberger's 2004 contract did not contain a clause -- almost certainly because the Steelers weren't aware that he liked to ride motorcycles. The quarterback's agent, Leigh Steinberg, received a letter from the Steelers last year warning that his cycle riding could violate the universal contract clause prohibiting dangerous activities outside of football.

However, it seems unlikely the team would try to enforce the contract by attempting to recover money from Roethlisberger, even if he were sidelined for a lengthy period. He is seen by the Steelers as the key to their franchise for years to come, and such an action could make it less likely Roethlisberger would re-sign with the Steelers once his contract expires after the 2009 season.

"Everyone, the whole league, was shocked over Roethlisberger's accident," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Wednesday. "I think we all see how that circumstance came about, how dangerous that is. ... We have a rule that players are not to ride a motorcycle during the season. But in the offseason, it is very difficult to control all those things."

Giants defensive lineman Michael Strahan wondered if NFL players should wait until their careers are over before taking up activities such as motorcycle riding.

"Here is a guy who is just basically getting started in his career and his career has been phenomenal so far. To see something like that happen -- something that can be avoided -- it's unfortunate," Strahan said. "I think you sit and learn that you can do a lot of those things when you are done playing."


AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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