How do you feel about your appearance?
I feel I look a little bit better every day as the redness gets out of my eyes. I surprise my doctors every day. They ask how I'm doing, every time I do a check-up, and they say I'm way ahead of schedule. Every day when I wake up I do feel a little bit better. My body feels great. Every once in a while I feel a little bit of swelling in my mouth, but even that goes down every day.
Do you sit there and think about what you've been through the last month? Do you say, wow, what's happened to me?
Well I think the accident was kind of God's way of saying, hey, Ben, maybe you need to step back a little bit, take a step back and maybe stop taking things for granted a little bit too much. People maybe criticize me for being out here, but I'm trying to live my normal life now. I think I need to get back to that. I'm so blessed that American Century Championships had me out here and let me play in this. I'm just thankful, and thank God I can be out here and do this.
What have you learned about yourself throughout this whole ordeal that maybe you didn't know about yourself before it happened?
I can be hurt. It can end in a split second. Like I've said before, it's almost like you get a feeling of invincibility. I talked to Joe Theisman yesterday about it. He said, ‘When you're on the field you have to have that.' But it's almost hard not to take it off the field because people and fans, you know, in Pittsburgh it's even worse because they put you on a pedestal. They elevate you so much to this level and sometimes you forget that you are human, and I think that it's really helped me remember that I am.
Do you plan to ride a motorcycle in the future?
You know what? Right now I'm not thinking about that. I've said before it's all football for me right now. Now I know I'm healthy; now I know I'm healed up. I'm just working on getting out there and getting ready to play because to me that's what's most important: being out there for those guys, being ready 100 percent by the first day of training camp. That way I don't miss a beat.
Considering the released details were so graphic, do people look at you like you're a ghost?
I get that a lot. Actually, the minor details that I did give were not as graphic as what actually really did happen. I could get into it real bad but it's not fun. You can ask the doctors about that. But my own teammates don't recognize me at first. I was just down somewhere with a bunch of the guys for an event and a couple of them walked right by me and waved to me like I was a fan. It was pretty funny. Obviously I cut my hair. That was one thing but most people expect me to be pretty much totally messed up in the face. I mean I had five plates put in my face. I got hit by a car.
When you look in the mirror, are you pleased with what you're seeing at this point? Do you think the girls are going to be okay with this?
Well, I remember when I could first open my eyes, the second day after the accident, being in the bathroom looking into a mirror, thinking: This is ugly; am I ever going to look close to normal again? The doctors said, ‘Don't worry. It's just swelling.' I have to give a lot of credit and thanks to the doctors because they just did an awesome job. They had me in surgery the first time for a long time because they wanted everything to be right the first time. I never expected to look -- I think I look pretty normal, at least the way I was. I never expected it to be that way and I'm thankful for it.
Have you had any flashbacks or nightmares about the accident?
No. You know, that's what people have been asking me: ‘Do you think, what if?' or ‘Do you wake up in the middle of the night sweating, thinking about a car?' No, I really don't. I'm thankful for being alive, first of all, and, really, I talk about it more than anything. I'm not one to sit here and say, what if? That's not who I am. I'll talk to my friends or I'll talk to my family and say, man, isn't this crazy? Or I'll say, I missed the windshield by three inches. What would've happened if I hit my face on the windshield? No, I'm not going to sit here and second guess what happened.
What have you heard from teammates? What have you said to teammates?
Well, the first thing I said to all my teammates was I'm sorry, you know, for putting them through this, for worrying them, for just taking the chance of not being hurt and not being able to play for them. There's been nothing but an outpouring of love from every single one of them. I've gotten letters; I got guys visiting in the hospital; I got calls, flowers, everything. Someone asked me if I was surprised and I said yes and no. I was surprised a little bit that so many people would, on a team, have such an outpouring. But on the other hand I'm not surprised because of how close we are. We have such a close brotherhood on this team that it doesn't surprise me how much they're really opening their arms for me.
What will you do before training camp? What chance is there that you'll take part in the run test?
There's no chance; I will be ready. I guarantee I'll be ready the first day. My goal is to get it to where it's coach's decision on what I do. I want to be 100-percent ‘Coach I'm ready to go; do you want me to go?' That's where I'm going to be. I'm still working out. I was behind the hotel, the casino, the other day running. I've been working out for two weeks now. I've been throwing, running, lifting. I'm doing it here while I'm playing golf. I feel I will be as close to 100 percent – I'm mostly 100 percent and I think I can get there. If not, I will be 99 percent.
Do you have stitches now and how did they get the plates in?
I do not have any stitches in. What you see is what you get. I'm not hiding anything under a shirt or anything. This is pretty much it. And I could tell you how they got the plates in but it's kind of gruesome and I figure I'll save that for you if I may.
Are you going to let Billy Joe Tolliver push you around and call you a rookie this year?
No. He can't do that anymore.
Did you let the doctors tell you everything they did?
Yes, slowly. I have about two or three doctor appointments a week, at least, and that includes dentist to face to all my doctors. I continue to ask questions. In fact, the last time I was in there, right before I left, they gave me a skeleton and they had the exact plates of where everything is, so now I know exactly where all the plates are, how big they are, and where they're at on my face.
The first time you have a big linebacker coming at you, are you going to be gun shy?
Any time a big linebacker's coming at me I get a little gun shy. But, I get that a lot: Do you think you're going to change your style of play? But being me, I'm a free spirit on the field, off the field. I don't foresee me sliding instead of diving, or trying to step out of bounds instead of taking a hit. That's not who I am. I'm sure it's going to hurt; it always does hurt when I get hit. But I don't foresee any problems or me being any more gun shy out there.
Did you talk to Coach Cowher about that free spirit stuff?
I'm so lucky to be playing for a guy like that. I mean it's absolutely awesome he said, ‘You're a free spirit. That's what makes you special, makes you who you are. And I love that free-spiritedness but you better be careful from now on.' So …
I get the sense you sound like a different person. Are you approaching the way you act, the way you talk to people, the way you look at things, much differently than you did before this accident?
I think so. I'm appreciating things more. Don't take this and run with it, but I don't hate doing interviews now. I talk to my family more and hug them. And when I see a lot of these guys I haven't seen in a long time, instead of shaking their hand I give them a hug. I'm just appreciating things and being thankful for every breath I get to take now.
Are you aware of the threats the woman received? And do you feel the need to say anything publicly?
I heard a couple things here and there about the way she was getting criticized, the threats, this and that, and that's sad. Obviously it was her fault, the accident, but I'm not going to sit here and blame her. I'm not going to criticize her. I don't have any hatred or bad wishes towards her. I forgive her for obviously the accident, so hopefully all that stuff stopped and she can get on with her life the best she can.
Is it therapeutic to get out there this weekend and get those competitive juices flowing?
This is one of my favorite events. This is my third year to be out here for the American Century Championships. My score might not be that good but I at least have an excuse now. But, no, this is therapeutic. I was going to do this whether I got in the accident or not. I'm just trying to live a normal life, and I think by being out here doing this it's helping me do that, be relaxed before camp starts.
How many letters have you received since the accident?
I have gotten such an amazing outpouring of love from Pittsburgh's fans. I got a couple bad letters -- obviously people will criticize you -- but I got so much stuff and it really helped me get through that first week when I was laid up. I couldn't move. I didn't want to move. Me and my parents sat there and opened the letters and read the cards and it really made you feel special. It's hard to say. I would say hundreds of thousands of letters, and we read every one of them.
Does anything feel different around your face? Or maybe a ringing or anything that doesn't feel like it did before the surgery?
Nothing except a little bit of swelling on my top lip and bottom lip, which is where the scars are from how they got into my face. But, no, my sight is just as good as it was. I can hear well; no dizziness. Everything is good up here, outside of a little swelling which feels better every day and they say it'll just continue to get better.
What is your position on Pennsylvania's law about helmets? And will you get involved in that debate?
Luckily I'm not a lawmaker. I'm not a politician; I'm a football player. I'm not going to be an advocate like I'm going to say that I want everyone to wear a helmet. I'm not going to be on billboards with a helmet on or stuff like that. I think it's people's choice what they want to do. And I think as long as Pennsylvania has that law, people have the right to make that choice. If Pennsylvania wants to go to a helmet law then that's what they want to do.
Will you wear anything different on the football field?
There are a couple different styles of helmets and we're going to look at a couple different ones; what feels the best; what's the best protective one. We're not going to have anything custom made. We don't need to. I want to wear the same helmet I've been wearing but they may want me to wear the new helmet people are wearing now.
Does everything feel good?
Everything feels great. I actually lost the weight I intended to lose. I didn't mean to lose it this way, but I lost the weight and I'm down to where I want to be. My arm feels great, knees, everything. My knee actually has less swelling in it now than it did before the accident. I feel great physically.
Are you back to eating everything you want?
I'm back to eating everything I want now. In the beginning it was milkshakes and protein shakes and stuff like that but I am at the point now where I can eat anything I want.
Have you talked to Carson Palmer here?
For a second yesterday. He was doing a bunch of interviews and stuff so I just grabbed him real quick. He said, ‘Ben it's great to see you here.' I've heard some reports that he's doing very well so I congratulated him on getting better, and we both said hopefully we're both ready to go when we play each other the first time.
Has the team put any restrictions on your activities off the field?
It has not been brought up. I guess that's something they'll probably want to talk about when the next contract comes around. It's something that hasn't been brought up yet.
Is the motorcycle parked until after the season?
You said in another interview that you forgot to wear your helmet that day. Had you been using it off and on?
I did wear a helmet a lot. It wasn't like I never rode with a helmet on. The bike I was on that day just got customized. It just got a custom paint job and this and that. I was supposed to take the helmet and get it painted so it could match. I was going to wear it every time I rode that bike. That's the day I was supposed to take it and I didn't take it.
How well do you think you'll play golf?
I don't know. I played a good round (Thursday). I had a good team and it felt good out there. I've got to go out today and start early, but I'm just out here just to have fun. I thank God to be out here in a beautiful place with Tahoe in the background. It's an awesome, awesome place.
Has there been a lot of support here?
Yeah it really has, a lot of shock: ‘Boy, you look better than I thought you would.' But yeah there's been a lot of support. It almost seems like nothing ever happened at times.
How's your thumb?
It's good. I don't have any pain in it right now.
How long before you could eat real food? And do you have any concerns from your doctors about taking a hit?
My jaw's strong enough that I could bite in and chew stuff. That's been about two weeks now. And the doctors haven't expressed any concerns to me or my family. They really feel everything is really progressing. They say I'm way ahead of schedule.