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NFL players react to Obama's opinions on football

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NFL players react to Obama's opinions on football

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs respects and understands President Barack Obama's opinion about the dangers of football - and hesitation about having a child play.

The hard-hitting 2011 Defensive Player of the Year also says that no matter how violent the sport, his 4-year-old son will be allowed to take it up if he wants.

``It would have to be his choice,'' Suggs said Monday. ``Football isn't for everybody. If my son ... came to me and said, `Dad, I want to play football,' then I would let him play.''

The president's thoughts about the future of the NFL - and whether he'd let a son play football - were a main topic of conversation as Super Bowl week got under way. So much so that when San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Alex Boone stepped away from his interview session, he asked someone, ``What's up with all this Obama (stuff)?''

Here's what's up: In an interview with The New Republic, the newly inaugurated president expressed what many other parents might be thinking following new studies about concussions and recent suicides by former NFL players.

``I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you, if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football,'' Obama said.

``I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence,'' he added. ``In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won't have to examine our consciences quite as much.''

Ravens safety Ed Reed, for one, agreed with the sentiment.

``I am with Obama,'' Reed said. ``I have a son. I am not forcing football on my son. If he wants to play it ... I can't make decisions for him. All I can do is say, `Son, I played it so you don't have to.'''

Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection in his 11 NFL seasons, thinks there needs to be improvements within the league.

``We've got some leaks in it that need to be worked out,'' Reed said. ``Every medical training room should be upgraded; training rooms can be a lot better.''

And as he noted: ``When you've got the president talking about it, you got something.''

Reed isn't sure everyone is being trained properly or cared for adequately.

``I felt like I played the game as safe as possible,'' he said. ``I even tell the guys that they have to take care of their bodies, take care of themselves. If you take care of that, it will take care of you.''

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health announced recently that Junior Seau - the star linebacker who died of a self-inflicted gunshot last year - had a degenerative brain disease often linked to repeated blows to the head.

Seau is one of several dozen football players who were found to have chronic traumatic ecephalopathy, or CTE.

The NFL is facing lawsuits brought by thousands of former players who say the league withheld information on the harmful effects of concussions.

Players who were asked Monday about Obama's comments tended to side with Ravens center Matt Birk, who did not hesitate before saying: ``I have three sons, and once they get to a certain age, if they want to play football, I would let them.''

San Francisco's Boone doesn't see how there is a lot of room for the game itself to change.

``There's going to be injuries and there's going to be problems,'' Boone said, ``but we're working on trying to prevent them.''

His coach, Jim Harbaugh, responded to the president's remarks in a lighter vein. Harbaugh, who played quarterback in the NFL for 14 seasons, mentioned his own child.

``Well, I have a 4-month-old - almost, soon-to-be 5-month-old - son, Jack Harbaugh, and if President Obama feels that way, then (there will) be a little less competition for Jack Harbaugh when he gets older,'' San Francisco's coach said with a chuckle. ``That's the first thing that jumps into my mind, if other parents are thinking that way.''

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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NFL Mock Draft 4.0: Combine Primer And Sleepers

NFL Mock Draft 4.0: Combine Primer And Sleepers

The annual NFL Combine kicks of Wednesday in Indianapolis. Whatever happens there -- receivers run fast, quarterbacks flash arm strength, defenders lack pop -- projections will change and in some cases significantly. Therefore here's my last look at the situation before all the sprints and lifts via mock draft 4.0 plus some other thoughts below.

* League sources offered up names of several prospects currently ranked all over the big boards with the chance to make a big splash during the combine. They include:

Alabama TE O.J. Howard -- Everybody already knows the 6-foot-6 Howard is a two-way monster. His Senior Bowl dominance certainly confirmed that. Rocking the Combine could alter his mid-to-late first round projection into 10-13 range where teams like New Orleans, Cleveland and Arizona have TE needs. Call me crazy, but if Howard is there when the Redskins pick at 17, I can imagine Washington thinkng long and hard about two-TE sets wth Jordan Reed. 

Oklahoma DT Charles Walker -- The Redskins have shown interest in Walker, according to a league source, though his draft range is all over the map. The interior force's redshirt junior season ended early due to a concussion followed by a decision to leave the Sooners early with draft preparation in mind. Was a second-team All-Big 12 selection as a junior thanks to six sacks. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Walker ninth among defensive tackles while WalterFootball.com projects the 304-pounder as a Day 2 pick.

<<CLICK HERE TO VIEW FULL NFL MOCK DRAFT 4.0>>

Pittsburgh OT Adam Bisnowaty -- Considered underrated despite starting four seasons for the Panthers. The left tackle helped key a resurgent season for the Panthers. Lack of wow prospects at the position means the order outside of Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin), Cam Robinson (Alabama) and Garrett Bolles (Utah) is in flux.

Ashland TE Adam Shaheen -- The D2 prospect is early candidate for the "Who is that guy?" award. Expect raves about Shaheen's size and athleticism. CBS Sports already has Day 2 projection on the 6-foot-6, 277-pounder who can run routes like a wide receiever. Could he move all the way into round 1?

Tulsa WR Keevan Lucas -- What the 5-foot-10 receiver lacks in height he makes up for with speed and production. Caught 81 passes for 1,180 yards and 15 touchdowns during his senior season with the Golden Hurricanes. Certain analytics show Lucas' production stood out  and put him in the same statistical company as future NFL receivers Stefon Diggs and Marqise Lee. Day 3 sleeper.

Other to watch: QB Pat Mahomes (Texas Tech), TE David Nkoju (Miami, Fl.), DT Ryan Glasgow (Michigan), CB Cordrea Tankersley (Clemson)

* Look at Scot McCloughan's draft history and one theme emerges: The man likes seniors, especially in round one. Brandon Scherff and Josh Doctson were both four-year players. The bulk of first round selections during his time at Seattle and San Francisco. That doesn't mean McCloughan will go that way with the 17th overall pick; Of the top 19 ranked prospects according to ESPN analyst Todd McShay, 14 are underclassmen. But keep a close on seniors with early round projections like Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, Temple inside linebacker Haason Reddick, Indiana guard Dan Feeney, LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White, Washington wide receiver John Ross and Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson.

<<CLICK HERE TO VIEW FULL NFL MOCK DRAFT 4.0>>

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Report: Ravens mulling cutting Dennis Pitta to create more cap space

Report: Ravens mulling cutting Dennis Pitta to create more cap space

A decision on whether to cut or keep Dennis Pitta is one of many issues facing the Ravens this offseason.

According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, the Ravens “may balk” at the $5.5 million salary Pitta is due next season. That makes sense, considering Pitta was just 28th in the NFL among tight ends in yards per catch (8.5) despite leading all tight ends with 86 catches. Pitta only had two touchdown catches, and there is concern he no longer has the speed to make explosive plays after two major hip surgeries.

Free agency begins March 9, but cutting Pitta with a June 1 designation would create the most cap space for the Ravens - $5.5 million.

However, if the Ravens release Pitta, they would turn the tight end position over to a question-filled group that includes:

Ben Watson – He is 36 years old, and missed all of the 2016 season with an Achilles injury. Cutting Watson and saving $3 million in cap space might make more sense than cutting Pitta. Especially if Pitta agrees to a pay reduction, as he did before last season.

Nick Boyle – He missed 10 games last season due to his second suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. Another suspension could lead to the end of Boyle’s career.

Crockett Gillmore – He must prove he can still healthy after missing seven games in 2016, and 15 games over the past two seasons.

Darren Waller – He was suspended four games in 2016 for his first PED violation, and he has caught just 12 passes in his first two seasons.

Maxx Williams – He is coming off major knee surgery.

Pitta remains a favorite target of quarterback Joe Flacco, and even if Pitta struggles to make splash plays, he is still a chain-mover as a possession receiver. You can make a case for cutting or keeping Pitta. The Ravens will soon make their verdict.

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