Right arm tucked into a black sling, weary eyes betraying a lack of sleep, Ben Roethlisberger tried to stay positive after the worst injury of his career.
The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback believes he can return this season despite spraining his right shoulder and suffering a dislocated rib in Monday night’s overtime win against Kansas City.
He’s just not sure when he’ll be ready. And his medical team appears nowhere close to figuring out how exactly to get him there.
“From what [the doctor] said, he’s trying to talk to experts because there is no case study over the exact same thing,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday.
Doctors are concerned the rib — which he injured while getting sacked by Kansas City linebackers — could puncture his aorta if jostled around.
He’ll be a spectator indefinitely while the Steelers (6-3) try to track down AFC North-leading Baltimore (7-2). The rivals meet twice over the next three weeks, with the first showdown Sunday night at Heinz Field. Veteran backup Byron Leftwich will take the snaps in Roethlisberger’s place, looking for his first win as a starter in six years.
Roethlisberger hopes he’ll be back to work over the next seven weeks. Asked if he thinks the injury will end his season, he shrugged his one good shoulder and attempted to remain upbeat.
“I don’t think so, I don’t know, though, but I’m not a medical expert,” he said. “I just know I’m going to do what I can to get back.”
Cassel to start for Chiefs
Matt Cassel is getting another start at quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Brady Quinn has not been cleared to participate in a game after his concussion, so Cassel will be back under center Sunday when the Chiefs play the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Brady does feel better. I’m glad he’s feeling better, but he hasn’t been cleared to play yet,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said.
Cassel was the starter before sustaining a concussion against Baltimore. Quinn was the fill-in starter, and then got the permanent job, only to be knocked out of his second start against Oakland.
Ryan scolds Tebow critics
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan doesn’t mind his players saying what’s on their minds — as long as they identify themselves.
Ryan angrily addressed his team for anonymous quotes by players ripping backup quarterback Tim Tebow in a newspaper report.
“If you’re not going to put your name to it, I think that’s about as cowardly of a thing there is,” Ryan said.
In other news, the Jets signed running back Kahlil Bell, who spent parts of the last four seasons with the Chicago Bears. In 22 career games, he has rushed 131 times for 589 yards and has caught 21 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown.
Bears kicker apologizes
Chicago Bears kicker Robert Gould blasted Soldier Field, saying he might have to think about re-signing when his contract expires next year. He told reporters he hopes to remain with the Bears but isn’t sure he wants “to deal with that as I get older as a kicker.”
He says the field is “a lot softer” than in previous years.
Later, Gould apologized to the grounds crew and said he has “since learned a lot more about the NFL’s policies and the measures that are taken at Soldier Field to ensure a reliable and safe playing surface.”
Dobbins fined for hit
Houston Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins has been fined $30,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit that gave Chicago’s Jay Cutler a concussion.
The hit came in the second quarter of Houston’s 13-6 win Sunday when Dobbins hit Cutler after he threw a pass.
Cutler’s status for this week remains in question.
Coach Lovie Smith says Cutler is “feeling a whole lot better,” but it’s not known if he can play against San Francisco on Monday night.
Raiders sign linebacker
The Oakland Raiders signed linebacker Omar Gaither and placed linebacker Travis Goethel on season-ending injured reserve.
Goethel tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in last week’s loss in Baltimore.
Gaither has played in 77 games with 40 starts over six combined seasons with Philadelphia and Carolina. He spent training camp this summer with Houston.
Vick misses practice
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick did not practice, but has not been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins. Vick suffered a concussion in the second quarter of a 38-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Backup Nick Foles, a rookie, took the first-team snaps at practice and would make his first career start if Vick cannot play.
Around the league
The Carolina Panthers signed free-agent guard Jeremy Bridges to serve as a stop-gap for their struggling offensive line. ... San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith (concussion) went through position work in a noncontact black jersey, his status still unclear for Monday night’s NFC showdown with the Bears. ... Buffalo Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay (neck) has been ruled out of tonight’s game against the Miami Dolphins.