Pittsburgh Steelers fans are either very forgiving, have short memories or approve of taking advantage of young drunk women in the bathrooms of bars.
In any event, the fans welcomed shamed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger — some even seeking his autograph — back to team practice with cheers and open arms Saturday, according to The New York Times.
An apparently grateful, or relieved, Roethlisberger didn’t give fans the shirt off his back, but he did give them the shoes off his feet. Literally. That anecdote is in the first paragraph of The Times’ story, which is headlined “For Roethlisberger, Feelings of Anxiety Fade With The Sound of Cheers.”
Roethlisberger’s practice at camp Saturday was essentially his first public appearance since the quarterback was suspended for six games. He got that suspension after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a Georgia bar in March. He was not criminally charged in that incident, but he faces a lawsuit from a woman who alleges he raped her in Lake Tahoe, Nev.
I believe, and have blogged here on this topic, that Roethlisberger’s behavior changed for the worse as a result of his past brain injuries, which included brain trauma he sustained in a motorcycle accident where he wasn’t wearing a helmet, to the several concussions he sustained while playing for the NFL.
The Times esimated that 10,000 fans showed up at St. Vincent College, where the Steelers train, and they roared when Roethlisberger came out onto the field.
Instead of jeers, one many yelled out to Roethlisbeger, “You’re the man,” The Times reported.
After the practice Roethlisberger told The Times, “It was good to be out here. I walked out, and they cheered pretty loud. It was neat to hear everybody cheering and seeing my jersey (on fans).”
Some of the fans wearing Roethlisberger’s jersey were women, old and young alike.
The quarterback, in addition to his supension, also had to undergo a behavorial evaluaton. His team mates say that he’s acting more “personable.” The question is whether this is an act, or a real change in Roethlisberger.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will visit the Steelers practice as part of his training-camp tour, , and The Times says the scuttlebutt is that Goodell may cut the quartereback’s suspension to only four games instead of six.