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Roethlisberger Thought Dead

WWW- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who four months ago won the Super Bowl in just his second NFL season, was seriously hurt in a motorcycle wreck yesterday in which he wasn’t wearing a helmet.

The football star underwent seven hours of surgery after suffering a broken jaw and broken nose and cracking open his head in a horrific smashup in downtown Pittsburgh about 11:15 a.m.

Witnesses said his 2005 Suzuki Hayabusa plowed into a car that made a left turn in front of him, sending Roethlisberger airborne. He smashed into the car’s windshield and then landed headfirst in a bloody heap in the street.

“He lay so still, I thought he was dead,” Sandra Ford, a witness, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Team officials said it was too soon to know when he’ll be ready to play football again.

Pittsburgh police said the crash is still under investigation. No summonses were issued to Roethlisberger, 24, or the 62-year-old woman driving the car.

Four doctors operated on Roethlisberger for seven hours to treat multiple facial fractures, Dr. Harry Sell, chairman of the surgery department at Pittsburgh’s Mercy Hospital, told reporters last night.

Dr. Daniel Pituch, who led the team, said Roethlisberger was in serious but stable condition, and doctors were aware of no other serious injuries.

Big Ben, who continued to ride despite a recent rash of injuries – some of them career-ending – to other athletes, has previously defended his refusal to wear a helmet, which is not required by Pennsylvania law.

“You’re just more free when you’re out there with no helmet on,” Roethlisberger said in an ESPN interview last year. He had been warned by Steelers coach Bill Cowher about the dangers of riding without a helmet.

Roethlisberger’s mother, Ida, died in a car accident when he was 8 years old, The Associated Press reported.

There was no indication from the Steelers or the hospital how long it would take Roethlisberger to recuperate, but a surgically repaired broken jaw typically takes approximately two months to heal. Training camps open at the end of July, and the Steelers begin defense of their championship on Sept. 7 against Miami.

“He was talking to me before he left for the operating room,” said Dr. Larry Jones, chief of trauma at Mercy Hospital. “He’s coherent. He’s making sense. He knows what happened. From that standpoint, he’s very stable.”

In February, at the age of 23, Roethlisberger became the youngest quarterback to win the Super Bowl. He is beloved in Pittsburgh, and fans gathered to keep vigil last night outside the hospital.

There is no specific language in Roethlisberger’s $14.3 million contract that prohibited him from riding motorcycles. But Paragraph 3 in the standard players contract prohibits players, without prior written consent of the team, from engaging “in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury.”

Jets safety Jamie Henderson suffered career-ending injuries two years ago after being involved in a motorcycle accident. Chicago Bulls guard Jay Williams is attempting a comeback after having not played since suffering serious injuries in a 2003 motorcycle accident.

Roethlisberger said in the ESPN interview that he did not consider riding a motorcycle hazardous activity.

But former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who won four Super Bowls for Pittsburgh, advised him last summer: “Ride it when you retire.”

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