Ashley Fox: We’ll see if Roethlisberger’s apologies are sincere

Michael Vick changed. When the game he had loved his entire life
was taken from him – through a major fault of his own – Vick missed
football more than he ever thought he would. He grew to appreciate
the game, his freedom to play it, and his place in the National
Football League. Vick’s love for football is genuine; if it wasn’t,
he would not have played at the level he did before injuring his
rib cartilage against Washington two weeks ago.

Let’s hope Ben Roethlisberger has changed, too.

A week after he was allowed to start practicing again during
Pittsburgh’s bye week, Roethlisberger returns to the playing field
on Sunday after serving a four-game suspension for violating the
league’s personal-conduct policy. Although he was not charged with
a crime, the suspension stems from a sexual-assault complaint in
Georgia against Roethlisberger, who faced a similar charge in
Nevada in 2008. Roethlisberger has denied any wrongdoing.

But if anything, Roethlisberger has been guilty of acting as if
he was a gift to football. He has made stupid choices, like riding
his motorcycle without a helmet. He has treated
Steelers employees, including his
own teammates, rudely. He has been a churl with the media. And he
has rubbed people in Pittsburgh the wrong way with his arrogance
and attitude.

Sure, Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowls and is one of only
two active quarterbacks (Tom Brady is the other) to win multiple
titles, but that does not give Roethlisberger a free pass to behave
badly. From the sound of it, Roethlisberger has learned his lesson
and has apologized, publicly and privately, to the
Steelers. We shall see if he is
sincere.

“I’m going back to the person I was raised to be, the person I
was before all this,” Roethlisberger said last week, according to
the Los Angeles Times. “It’s not like I’m going back to being ‘Big
Ben’ and having all these issues.”

The
Steelers certainly will be happy
when Roethlisberger steps on the field Sunday against the 1-4
Browns. While Pittsburgh has been able to win games with
Roethlisberger on the shelf, it has been an adventure at
quarterback. The
Steelers have been through Byron
Leftwich, Dennis Dixon, and Charlie Batch, and not surprisingly
they rank last in the league in passing, averaging 136 yards per
game, and last in attempts (81).

Last season, Roethlisberger threw for a career-high 4,328 yards,
with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. If he can be as
consistently effective as he was in 2009, the
Steelers, who have the fourth-ranked
defense in the NFL, are going to be dangerous.

Favre or no Favre? Speaking of quarterbacks behaving badly,
Brett Favre has tendinitis in his throwing elbow and might not be
able to play when his 1-3 Minnesota Vikings host the 1-3 Dallas
Cowboys. All that is on the line is the Vikings’ season and Favre’s
cherished streak of 289 regular-season games started. No big
deal.

Meanwhile, the NFL continues to investigate a Deadspin report
that Favre sent inappropriate messages and photos to a New York
Jets game hostess when he played there in 2008.

Big loss How devastating would a work stoppage in 2011 be for
the NFL? The league could lose up to $1 billion, according to the
Wall Street Journal.

That’s a staggering figure and underscores the importance for
the league to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with
the players prior to March 3, when the current CBA expires.

According to the report, no new agreement is in place, the
league could lose up to $400 million in March, when many season
tickets are renewed – although presumably that money could be
recouped – and another $500 million in August if preseason games
are canceled. Each team could expect to lose $8 million per
regular-season home game canceled, according to the Journal.

Those figures are what will propel the league to get a new deal
done.

Thank you Jerome Harrison has the potential to be a huge pickup
for the Eagles. In the last three games of 2009 with Cleveland,
Harrison rushed for 561 yards – 286 against Kansas City to break
Jim Brown’s single-game team mark – and five touchdowns. He
apparently fell into Eric Mangini’s doghouse this season and was
replaced by rookie Montario Hardesty and then Peyton Hillis.

With the Browns this season, Harrison had 31 carries for 91
yards.

“All I can say is thank you,” Harrison told the Cleveland Plain
Dealer after the Browns traded him to the Eagles for Mike Bell. “I
don’t feel like they were using me there, so thank you for letting
me get the opportunity somewhere else.
Excitement might be an understatement. I just
want to go somewhere and win.”

Clearly, that place is not Cleveland.

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Dont? Stallworth played with
Harrison for one season in 2008. He tweeted this about Harrison
last week: “Heads up Eagles fans . . . RB Jerome Harrison from the
Browns, the kid is a damn ANIMAL!!! Trust me.”

Contact staff writer Ashley Fox

at 215.854.5064 or afox@phillynews.com. Follow

her on Twitter at twitter.com/AshleyMFox.