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.