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Roethlisberger Likely to Play this Year

PITTSBURGH – Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could be out of the hospital in a few days and appears likely to play this season after a bloody motorcycle accident in which his helmetless head shattered a car windshield.

The Steelers’ Super Bowl-winning quarterback was upgraded to fair condition at Mercy Hospital on Tuesday, a day after the scary accident at a busy Pittsburgh intersection left him and his team shaken.

Despite being tossed high into the air after his made-for-speed motorcycle rammed into a car, causing him to smack his head on the car’s windshield, Roethlisberger escaped career-threatening injuries.

Doctors did not discuss Roethlisberger’s condition in detail, at the request of his family, but the quarterback’s only major injuries were to his face: a broken upper and lower jaw, a loss of two teeth, a broken nose, broken facial bones and various cuts and bruises.

Jaw injuries can vary greatly in nature and, because of the rather limited protection provided by a football helmet, have the potential to sideline a player for a lengthy period. But the surgeons who operated on Roethlisberger for seven hours Monday said all of his fractures were successfully repaired.

If that is the case, then Roethlisberger might miss part or most of training camp but could be ready for the Sept. 7 opener against Denver. For the Steelers, who would otherwise go into the season with backup Charlie Batch and rookie Omar Jacobs at quarterback, that is the best possible scenario after an accident that left huge splotches of Roethlisberger’s dried blood on a city street.

Dr. Larry Jones, the chief of Mercy Hospital’s trauma unit, said Roethlisberger’s brain was functioning normally, although the QB has a concussion.

“He is awake, alert, oriented and is resting with his family by his side,” Jones said during a news briefing, which reporters were not allowed to ask questions.

The 24-year-old Roethlisberger, the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, was initially listed in serious but stable condition following the accident.

Considering that Roethlisberger wasn’t wearing a helmet while riding his 2005 Suzuki Hayabusa, a model that weighs less than 600 pounds but can easily reach 200 miles per hour in a modified state, the Steelers realize how much worse the accident could have been.

Coach Bill Cowher has said nothing publicly since making a hasty return to Pittsburgh from a North Carolina vacation on Monday night, and it is unlikely any team official will comment about Roethlisberger’s football future until he is out of the hospital. According to Jones, Roethlisberger could be released in three to five days.

In an additional development, KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh reported Roethlisberger does not have a valid Pennsylvania motorcycle license and that his temporary permit expired in March, though he does have a valid automobile driver’s license. The Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles declined to comment on the report.

Nobody has been cited in the crash and police will not release information until an accident reconstruction is complete, Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Tammy Ewin said Tuesday.

Roethlisberger’s accident set off debate around the NFL whether teams should take additional contractual safeguards to prevent their key players from participating in hazardous behavior.

A standard NFL player’s contract prohibits any offseason activity that can be harmful, but not all players have clauses for activities such as motorcycle riding, all-terrain vehicle riding and skydiving. Roethlisberger’s contract apparently did not, probably because the Steelers had no indication he indulged in motorcycle riding before signing him in 2004.

“Maybe the first persons it’ll hit is all the quarterbacks,” NFL Player Association president Troy Vincent of the Buffalo Bills said Tuesday. “Now all the QB contracts may have something in them and then it might start tapering into the wideouts and into the running backs, generally your high-priced guys.”

Vincent said he has ridden motorcycles, but never without a helmet.

In May 2005, Cowher warned Roethlisberger about his riding habits after Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow was injured in a motorcycle accident. Winslow tore knee ligaments and was lost for the season.

“I wish all our players liked board games or low-risk hobbies,” Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage said Tuesday. “Unfortunately, that’s part of the reason that makes these guys professional athletes. They have a little bit of an edge to want to do more, seek more. Where’s the line? I don’t know that.”

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