Q&A: Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger opened up with Pittsburgh reporters Thursday for one of his better interview sessions.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: What was the conversation with Hines Ward like?

A: He reached out to me and I told him I was just more hurt than anything. We got over it, we moved past it, and now we're preparing.

Q: Was too much made of it?

A: You know what, it's the media. You guys make a lot out of everything.

Q: Was too much made of it from your perspective?

A: It's a dead issue now for us. We're moving on and we're getting past it.

Q: Did it catch you off guard?

A: Like I said, we're moving on and getting past it. Like I said, it hurt, but it's over now.

Q: How do you feel today compared to last Thursday?

A: I feel great. I'm ready to go. Practiced yesterday and felt good; no headaches. Ready to rock and roll.

Q: You told us you felt fine last Thursday. Were you trying to cover up a little bit?

A: I felt fine, but what it was, it was exercise-induced headaches. So when I'm standing here talking to you guys I was fine. But as soon as I went out there and started practicing is when I started to get the headaches and stuff, so that's what concerned the doctors. They took what was my best interest in mind. A lot of people forget the accidents that I had. They remembered that. It was life-threatening. I almost lost my life before in an accident to my head and face and the five plates that I have in my face right now. They knew it was in my best interest, and when you have symptoms like that they felt it was best to not go. And that was their decision, not mine. I wanted to play, but on Saturday morning they made that decision.

Q: Were you almost as surprised as your teammates when they made that decision?

A: Yeah, Saturday morning coach had me come in a little bit earlier than everyone else. We talked to doctors and were going to workout and stuff, but he basically pulled me up into his office and told me. I was kind of in shock. I was upset, shocked, but respected what they said.

Q: How long did you plead your case?

A: I tried. I even tried after the national anthem. I was standing next to him, and I said, ‘Are you sure I can't go?' And he said, ‘Nope, you're down.'

Q: Do you walk a balance in how much you're going to tell them?

A: Well, when it comes to your brain, I don't think so much. If it's a bad shoulder, a knee, an ankle, of course guys don't tell a lot of stuff. I've fought through a lot of injuries myself that I didn't tell coaches about. But when it comes to your brain, you only get one. You hear stories about Merril Hoge, how he flat-lined in the locker room. There are some scary things out there that you don't want to mess with, so if I have headaches, if I have symptoms, I'm going to let them know because it's not worth losing your life over. If you have to miss one game to hopefully play 10 more years in this league, that's OK with me.

Q: So last week you wanted to play, but you had to be 100 percent?

A: Yeah. I probably could've went out and played. Now would it have been the smart thing to do? It also happened with (Brian) Westbrook. He went out and played and now he's out for who knows how long. Will he ever play again? Who knows? So, it's a scary thing.

Q: Do you still think there's a level of ignorance with head injuries?

A: Well, we're football players. We play one of the most violent sports in the world. You have to be tough. You have to fight through a lot of injuries, and a lot of guys do that. I think guys are, not waking up, but seeing how important the brain is and the head is. You see guys like Muhammad Ali, and I've heard things about Wayne Chrebet, you know, tough things and situations you don't want to be put in. You do have to think about your future and your family. It's not fun, but you can get knee replacement surgery, you can have rotator cuff surgery, but you can't get a new brain, so that's something you need to be careful of.

Q: Did you get support from your teammates?

A: I got a lot of calls, and a lot of guys even told me before the game, they were telling me, ‘Please, don't play. We want you out there but this is not the end of the year, it's not the end of your season or your career,' all that stuff. Got a lot of calls from older guys as well, and it's tough because you do want to be out there and play. I want to be out there with my guys. I've always been one of those guys who wants to be out there no matter what, so it was frustrating, but probably the smart thing in the long run.

Q: Is the difference between this week and last week that you have no headaches?

A: Yeah, I have no symptoms right now, so I feel great. I mean, I passed all my tests last week. The doctors cleared me for the post-concussion tests. When you have symptoms when you work out and stuff, that's what made them nervous. We have one of the best doctors in Dr. (Joseph) Maroon, and what he says goes.

Q: Will you have any more tests?

A: No. I'm done. I flew past them.

Q: Are you worried about the cumulative effects from concussions?

A: I'm not super-concerned about it because I feel we have taken all the proper precautions in coming back -- the doctors, the trainers, myself, coach. I don't feel that I've ever rushed back into a game afterwards, even though people talk about a couple years ago when I played in the Raider game and had a bad game. But I don't ever feel like we've made a bad decision when it's come to that.

Q: Did you have headaches leading up to that game?

A: That was a long time ago. I don't remember. I know the doctors cleared me, so I passed my tests and everything was fine. I must not have if they let me play.

Q: Do you think your situation will have a positive effect on the league?

A: Without saying anything bad about the commissioner and that rule, I think you have to be careful because with the new rule, guys who have a concussion can't go back in the game. I think the risky part about that is guys will try to be too tough and they might not tell about their symptoms, they might not tell about the full effect of what they just got hit in the game because they want to go back in the game. I really thought I could've gone back in the Chiefs game. Now, with this new rule I wouldn't have been able to. So you get a game like a Super Bowl or a playoff game, where a guy feels he can go back in, he may not tell. That's the only kind of scary part of it.

Q: When did you have your last headache?

A: Last week some time.

Q: Are you ready to unleash your own hell on somebody?

A: I'm ready to get back out there. I think yesterday was a good day of practice. Preparations have been going well. I think the guys are ready to get out and really turn this thing around.

Q: What do you think is your situation as a team right now?

A: It's not really desperate, but we know it's do-or-die, our backs are against the wall. We're a wounded dog in a fight. I hate to use that term, but we need to come out swinging.

Q: Does it remind you of 2005?

A: A little bit. A little bit. We're just hoping for the same outcome.

Q: The coach said he'd consider using Dennis Dixon in some type of package. What do you think about that?

A: That's news to me, so if I see him coming in I'll know to come out.

Q: How did Dixon play?

A: I thought he played great. With the things that he was asked to do, he did more than we asked him to do. Played well. I know he took it hard with that interception at the end, but it's not his fault. I said it a thousand times: I was probably just as proud of him as his dad was after the game.

Q: Would you consider wearing a more protective helmet?

A: At the end of the year I'm going to look into different helmets. I know that helmet is one that supposedly isn't the best, but it's one that I've been comfortable with and I've worn. After the year we're going to go and explore. I know the helmet companies are doing a bunch of tests. We'll do what's smart and I'll do what's best, but you still have to be able to have a helmet you feel comfortable playing in. But I will explore new options at the end of the year.

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