Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said in an interview screened Thursday that he considered walking away from the NFL as he struggled to come to terms with sexual assault allegations made against him.
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In an interview on the program "NFL Live," Roethlisberger said he had learned some hard lessons from the ordeal, but insisted he was not guilty.
"There was a time when I was going through all this that I contemplated not playing anymore," Roethlisberger said. "I didn’t want to be Big Ben anymore."
Roethlisberger made his return to the Steelers team Monday after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
The suspension stemmed from an incident in March involving a 20-year-old college student who claimed the quarterback sexually assaulted her at a Georgia nightclub.
No criminal charges were ever brought against Roethlisberger, but there is a pending court case.
"I will tell you this: I never have and never will harm a female in the way I was accused. … I would never hurt a female like that, never," he said.
Roethlisberger did, however, admit that he had made poor lifestyle choices in the leadup to the incident, but said he would never make the same mistakes again.
"I remember sitting there thinking, ‘Who am I right now?’ and looking in the mirror and not recognizing who I was looking at, knowing the lifestyle decisions I was making weren’t me. It hit me hard. It was a wake-up call, and I’m glad that I woke up."
The former first-round pick will step back in as the Steelers’ starter in two weeks. The team has a bye week this Sunday. They face Cleveland at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on Oct. 17.