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

Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes

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Report: Patriots fill open roster spot with former Browns DL Hughes

The Patriots opened a roster spot by waiving defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, but they won't be adding a quarterback to take his place. 

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the team has swapped one defensive tackle for another by adding former Browns big man John Hughes, a 6-foot-2, 320-pounder who played under former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Mike Lombardi when Lombardi was Cleveland's general manager in 2013. 

Hughes was released last week after spending just over four years with the team that drafted him in the third round in 2012. He signed a four-year extension with the Browns last season that was worth $12.8 million. 

With the Patriots, Hughes figures to work in as part of the rotation on the interior of the defensive line along with Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and rookie third-round pick Vincent Valentine. Unlike Johnson, who was more of a penetrating pass-rusher, Hughes should factor in as more of a space-eating type. He has 5.5 career sacks in 53 games. 

Johnson is the latest in a long line of Browns who played under Lombardi to end up in New England. The two most notable Patriots who spent 2013 in Cleveland are defensive end Jabaal Sheard and running back Dion Lewis. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who arrived in New England in a trade this summer, was drafted by Lombardi's front office as the No. 6 overall pick in 2013.

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

Pats exploit 'element of unknown' with Garoppolo or Brissett at QB

There’s no way to spin rookie Jacoby Brissett starting a game rather than three-year NFL veteran Jimmy Garoppolo or future Hall of Famer Tom Brady as preferable.
 
But can the disadvantages be mitigated? Can the fact there is no “book” on a player be helpful?
 
“I think there’s always an element of the unknown when you’re dealing with a player or something you haven’t seen or scouted as much,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on a conference call Monday afternoon. “I don’t know if there’s an advantage there, it’s just that you don’t have as much information on a player or on some scheme that they may use, which then forces you to figure some things out as the game goes along and do some quick self-scouting as you move through the first cquarter, the first half, whatever it is, just to make sure that if it is something new you haven’t seen before, if it is a player that you haven’t played against and don’t have a lot of volume of tape on, that you have an opportunity to evaluate quickly what is going on.

"What’s happening in the game? How much of an impact is that player having? Are they trying to  do something that’s disrupting what you’re trying to do with their scheme? I think that happens a lot of weeks during the course of the year based on health and availability, new players, guys being called up, someone that just got signed and you don’t really have a lot of experience watching them play in their system. I would say that’s a common occurrence for us.”
 
With a fullback or UDFA guard pressed into duty, there’s not a helluva lot that will be altered in terms of scheme. With players like Garoppolo and Brissett, though, the Patriots' long-established offense can take on an entirely different look if different areas are emphasized.
 
For instance, jet sweep is a play the team won’t use much with Tom Brady except as a “keep ‘em honest” on the edges kind of play. With Garoppolo, quickness when he gets outside the pocket has to be respected so if he fakes that jet sweep and rolls to the outside, he’s a run-pass threat with speed and downfield accuracy. With Brissett, he’s a threat with elusiveness, size and power as a runner. Additionally, if the Patriots wanted to try the old Elway Throwback to the opposite sideline, Brissett may have more arm power than either Brady or Garoppolo.
 
McDaniels said the Patriots aren’t looking necessarily for ways to “surprise” opponents as much as they are looking for ways to accentuate players’ strengths.  
 
“We’ve got to take the guys that we get to play with, based on health and other factors, and then we consider the defense that we’re getting ready to play against, and the great players and the scheme that they use, and then we try to formulate the right plan to allow our players to go out there and play fast, play well, and do the things that suit their talents the best,” McDaniels explained. “I don’t think that our mindset has changed.

"Some of the variables have changed from one week to the next, which is always the case,  and of course, when you get a group of guys a plan and then you work so hard to get ready for Sunday or Thursday night and go out there and watch them play and execute and take care of the ball and do the things you need to do to try to win, and then they enjoy it so much, that’s really the thing that you take the most satisfaction from as a coach.”