Curran: Roethlisberger continues to rehab his image

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Curran: Roethlisberger continues to rehab his image

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com

DALLAS I want to be a role model, Ben Roethlisberger said at the Super Bowl this week. I want people to look up to me. I like when kids wear my jersey and stuff.

Can Roethlisberger ever hope to be that? Hope to be the guy that parents point to and say to their kids, Try and be just like him?

Hes trying. Really hard. But you cant operate on a torn and tattered reputation like an ACL. You can only rehab. And even then, the scars on that reputation will probably never go away.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the Super Bowl and Roethlisberger may win his third title in six seasons. Yet the fact that Roethlisberger started the season on a four-game suspension (reduced from six) because of an offseason incident in Milledgeville, Georgia and boorish behavior prior is a lingering embarrassment.

As much as the Steelers insist Roethlisbergers absence galvanized the team, as much as they celebrate his efforts at being, simply, a better guy, its hard to look at him and not wonder if his transformation came because of self-reflection or self-preservation.

Its hard to look at him and not wonder just what happened in Lake Tahoe, where a woman accused him of sexual assault in 2008. Or what happened last offseason in Georgia when he was investigated for the same thing. Criminal charges were never brought in either case, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodells suspension of Roethlisberger spoke volumes.

When handing the suspension down last April, Goodell wrote in a letter that Roethlisbergers actions in Milledgeville raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare."

Goodell also noted, I recognize that the allegations in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you. My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans."

Roethlisberger took the commissioners advice to heart. He has, at least in the minds of teammates, coaches and players within the Steelers organization, fixed himself.

Ben is a highly respected member of our football team, not only because of what hes done this year, but just as large, his body of work and the person that he is, said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on Monday. We all fall short of perfection, we all make mistakes. His are well-documented. Hes doing the best that he can in terms of moving forward with it, as are his teammates.

This week, Roethlisberger is having to face the music. Under the media glare of the most intensely covered game in American sports, he is gently poked and prodded about how hes different, how hes changed.

He stays away from specifics and introspection. He doesnt offer apologies. Hes in a move forward mode, which is understandable since behind him is a flaming car wreck that begs explanation.

Asked about his redemption on Monday, Roethlisberger answered, I think thats a great reflective question And the time for reflecting is probably after the year. I cant reflect now. I have to think about this game.

When pressed for more reflection, Roethlisberger said, You want to be a good person. You want to be a good someday, hopefully father and husband, whatever that entails . . . There are a lot of people you need to be a role model to. Its not just the fans on the street. I want to be, someday when I have kids, a role model to my kids as well.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert firmly believes that this new Roethlisberger is authentic.

I think over time, Bens proven who he really is, Colbert said Tuesday. We knew what he was as a player, but now everybody gets to see who Ben Roethlisberger is. Im not surprised where he is as a player or off the field. Ben Roethlisberger comes from a very good family. He was brought up right. Look, theres gonna be mistakes everybody makes along the way. But if you get down to the core of who a person is and you feel comfortable about that, they will come out the other side.

Its been interesting this season to measure the reaction to Roethlisbergers redemption against that of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

There is, of course, no way to measure accurately who the public forgives more fully. But while Vick spent time in federal prison and Roethlisberger was never actually charged with a crime, there seems a greater willingness among people to at least forgive Vick.

Maybe its because Vick paid his debt to society in prison. But probably not. More likely? While what Vick did to all those dogs he killed and tortured along with his friends was mind-bogglingly evil, the image of Roethlisberger mistreating women is more offensive to our collective sensibilities.

That and the fact that because of the legalities involved Roethlisberger has only apologized generally. He said in April, I am accountable for the consequences of my actions. Though I have committed no crime, I regret that I have fallen short of the values instilled in me by my family . . . I am sorry to let down my teammates and the entire Steelers fan base. I am disappointed that I have reached this point and will not put myself in this situation again. I appreciate the opportunities that I have been given in my life and will make the necessary improvements."

Ben Roethlisberger cannot win this battle. He cannot unring the bell that was sounded. His suspension rather than serving as a sentence was actually just confirmation that he was a bad guy.

Whether hes still a bad guy whos now behaving better or a decent person who went way off the rails, the stain remains.

Roethlisberger seems to have come to grips with that reality.

Inner peace is a great thing when you have it, he said Monday. If you know what it is, I think you would understand where Im coming from.

Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski attended the Dayton 500 in true Gronkowski form.

He appeared to be there promoting Monster Energy drink, and was therefore hanging with the Monster Girls, who were also promoting the drink. Gronkowski's herniated disc injury, which required surgery in December 2016, does not seem to be slowing him down as he gets warmed up for the Summer of Gronk.

During the race coverage on FOX Sports, Gronk delivered a speed limit joke, which is sure to make the 13-year-old in you chuckle. (You can watch it here.)

[H/T NESN.com]

Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

I think it’s time. Time to let the Deflategate wound scab over. Time to exit the active, raging, teeth-gnashing, petition-signing, lawsuit-filing portion of the program and let the hate follow its natural course into a slow-boil loathing.

If you are of Irish descent, you know how it works. Clear a big-ass space on the grudge shelf. Put Roger Goodell, Jeff Pash, Mike Kensil, Troy Vincent, Ryan Grigson, Jim Irsay, every shiv-wielding owner, all the cluck-clucking media and the legion of retired players and exiled GMs from Marshall Faulk to Joey Porter through Marty Hurney and into Bill Polian up there. Turn off light. Leave room.

When you need to piss yourself off -- in traffic, mowing the lawn, waiting for your coffee -- fetch ‘em down, blow the dust off and when you’re in a sufficiently foul mood, return grudge to shelf.

You rode the roller coaster. You’ve been there, done that and have all the T-shirts.

I came to this conclusion a few days ago, when ESPN’s Cari Champion interviewed Rob Gronkowski and asked about Goodell visiting Gillette. It was like playing “Get the Stick!” with a big goofy Lab. Champion threw the leading question, Gronk fetched -- tail-wagging --  and returned with a slobbery response that was completely implausible but still designed to dominate a four-hour news cycle.

"The fans are nuts, they’re wild, and they have the Patriots’ back no matter what,” said Gronkowski. “They have [Tom Brady’s] back. I’m telling you, he won’t get through the highway if the fans saw him. I don’t even think he can even land in the airport in Boston because Patriot fans are the best fans, they’re the most loyal fans. I’m telling you, they might just carry out Roger themselves. They couldn’t even get to the stadium in Foxboro if he landed in Boston."

Gronk’s just doing what he thinks he’s supposed to do. And Champion is, too. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Watch these mooks up in New England get all pissed off: “Hey, hey, Chowderhead . . . Roger Goodell . . . . ”

“F*** that guy, he better never show his face in Foxboro! But I want him to come to Foxboro so I can boo the ever-living s*** out of him and maybe barricade Route 1 like Gronk said we would!”

See? Works every time.

The irony is that the person mainly responsible for turning up the burner on this is Robert Kraft.

In May 2015, Kraft said at the owners meetings in San Francisco, “I don’t want to continue the rhetoric that’s gone on for the last four months. I’m going to accept, reluctantly, what he has given to us, and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric, and we won’t appeal.

“Now, I know that a lot of Patriots fans are going to be disappointed in that decision, but I hope they trust my judgment and know that I really feel at this point in time that taking this off the agenda, this is the best thing for the New England Patriots, our fans, and the NFL, and I hope you all can respect that.”

Well, that blew up like an ACME bomb. And -- from that moment on -- Kraft has tried to recoup the fanbase that believed he sold them out by issuing a succession of calls-to-arms that the region has dutifully responded to.

The most recent was throwing down the gauntlet to Goodell by expressly inviting him to the 2017 season opener.  I mean, it would have been a conversation point anyway, but now it’s metastasized into something that will be discussed throughout the offseason, ratcheting up in early September and hitting a crescendo on opening night.

There is appeal to seeing Goodell squirm while knowing the Maras, Rooneys and Irsays will be sipping highballs and lamenting the caddish treatment of Poor Roger. But I still like the football better.

Conversation about the historic import of SB51, the legacy of Brady and Belichick, prospects for the league in 2017? I’ll take those rather than an ESPN “personality” who spent a weekend in Newburyport at a friend’s wedding telling everyone what the mindset of the New England sports fan is.  

But that’s not what we’re going to get. There will instead be ever-escalating predictions of the terrors Goodell will be subjected to fueled by interviews with tatted-up kids from the mean streets of Marshfield who wanted “Hoodie” fired when he let Revis sign with the Jets.

Unless . . . unless the region en masse decides to let its loathing mature. Mature to the point that when the carrot gets dangled in its collective face it doesn’t leap at it with teeth bared but instead says, “No thanks. Already full.”

Yeah. I don’t think it’s gonna happen either.