Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was accused earlier this year of raping a woman in the bathroom of an Atlanta-area bar, said he's made mistakes and expects to be booed when he takes the field next fall.
"I've wanted to apologize to them [fans] for so many things. For being immature, for being dumb, for being young, for not knowing any better," the two-time Super Bowl winner he told Pittsburgh TV station WTAE
. "For getting caught up in everything that was thrown my way. . . . In my heart, I know I haven't been the best person, the best quarterback for the Steelers, I'm not talking just on the field, I'm talking off the field."
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Roethlisberger did not directly address the March 5 incident in Milledgeville, Ga., in which a woman accused him of raping her as his posse stood guard outside the bathroom. Prosecutors there ultimately declined to charge him due to a lack of evidence, but made clear they believed he behaved badly.
The allegations were followed by several reports that Roethlisberger has partied heavily for years, and been a jerk to everyone from team employees to waitresses and media. In the interview, Roethlisberger seemed to acknowledge as much.
"I got caught up being Big Ben the whole time. I lost track of who Ben Roethlisberger was. It's not something I'm proud of," he said. "I've made mistakes, I know I have."
The quarterback's mea culpa came after Georgia authorities released audio and video tape from his accuser in which she said she felt powerless as Roethlisberger attacked her:
"I'm a little girl and he's a big boy," she told investigators. She said she begged him to stop, but did not physically resist out of fright.
The DVDs offered the first extensive account by the accuser, who hasn't spoken publicly, as well as less than a minute of shaky Roethlisberger footage from the club. With loud music blaring, the Pittsburgh Steelers star asks a girl what her drink tastes like, doles out high-fives, strikes a pose, punches his fist in the air twice and flashes a huge grin for the camera.
Roethlisberger was suspended for the first six games of the upcoming season, though commissioner Roger Goodell said he could reduce it to four games if Roethlisberger shows he is committed to improving his off-the-field behavior.
Goodell has said the 28-year-old failed to meet the league's expectations for player behavior with his late-night antics. Roethlisberger also is being sued in Nevada by a woman who says he sexually assaulted her there in 2008. There were no charges brought in that case.