NFL: Coach Tomlin steps in for Big Ben at youth camp
By ALAN ROBINSON
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH — Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been booted from a youth football camp in Pittsburgh, with coach Mike Tomlin taking over as his last-minute replacement.
Tomlin has agreed to fill in for his quarterback in putting on a three-day youth football camp that will be held next month at a suburban Pittsburgh high school.
Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old college student in Milledgeville, Ga., in March. Although he was not charged, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended the two-time Super Bowl champion six games for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
Formerly known as the Ben Roethlisberger Football Camp, the camp is now being called the Coach Tomlin Football Camp, and will be held June 21-23 at Mars Area High School. The camp is open to youngsters between the ages of 7 and 14.
The camp has 20 sponsors or partners, including title sponsor Old Spice and two presenting sponsors, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and Bowser, a Pittsburgh car dealership. The camp lists 17 other corporations or businesses as partners, including Outback Steakhouse, McDonald's, Bridgestone, Pizza Hut, Verizon Wireless, Fifth Third Bank, Fairfield Inn, Nike, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and KDKA-TV.
It is uncertain if any of the corporate or business sponsors threatened to pull out if Roethlisberger continued to run the camp, but there were concerns about being linked to a camp headed by him.
Roethlisberger was ordered by the NFL to undergo an evaluation, and he is currently barred from attending any team activities and offseason practices.
"At the request of Ben Roethlisberger, I have agreed to host this year's Youth Football Camp," Tomlin said in a statement given to The Associated Press. "Ben has expressed his hopes that this outstanding community program can continue despite his absence as he addresses issues regarding his personal life. The camp already has a significant number of kids signed up who are expecting a great experience, and both Ben and I want to make sure they are not disappointed.
"Helping children understand and enjoy the game of football has been a passion of mine for many years. I look forward to this opportunity to use football to teach important life lessons to all the kids in attendance."
The website previously used by the Roethlisberger camp links to a site, ProCamps Worldwide, that contains information about youth camps across the country, including Tomlin's.
Campers are promised nine hours of football instruction, a T-shirt and a team photo signed by Tomlin. Nearly 500 youngsters attended last year, the camp's second year of existence.
It is uncommon for NFL coaches to stage such youth camps because they take place during what normally is their vacation period, between the time when voluntary offseason practices end and training camp begins.