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NFL players react to Obama's opinions on football


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.''


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


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

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Ravens' Lardarius Webb: 'Winning football' comes down to little things

Ravens' Lardarius Webb: 'Winning football' comes down to little things

Safety Lardarius Webb sat at his locker at MetLife Stadium on Sunday digesting the Ravens fourth straight loss and lamenting all the things the Ravens are not doing in order to, in the words of coach John Harbaugh, play "winning football."

"It's making the tackle," Webb said, "getting off the field on third down when you're supposed to. When you make a turnover, not turning it back over."

"It's a lot of little things. We can't do those things to give them the edge."

Webb is the fifth-longest tenured Raven and one of the veteran leaders of this team. And with hints of gray in his sideburns and his beard, and with a gimpy hamstring that knocked him out of the Jets game, Webb, 31, has shown his age at times this year.

In each of the last two losses, a speedy receiver turned a short catch into a long touchdown, with the receiver each time blowing by Webb -- the last line of defense at free safety -- and outrunning him to the end zone.

First it was Odell Beckham going 66 yards with the game-winning score for the Giants in the final two minutes. Then this past week, Quincy Enunwa turned a seemingly harmelss 10-yard pass into a 69-yard touchdown.

"We can't give them big plays," Webb said. "Can't miss tackles."

Through seven games, Webb has 19 tackles and one pass breakup.

Webb's transition from cornerback to safety was one of the major defensive storylines coming into the season,  and secondary coach Leslie Frazier acknowledged that it has been an uneven season for the veteran.

"He has had some good moments, and there are some moments where I’m sure he would be the first to tell you he would like to have another chance at," Frazier said after Tuesday's bye week practice. "But he has done a lot of good things. I think it was a good move for him.

"He has a lot of range and a lot of athletic ability as well. He is still learning as he is going through the process. ... I think overall, he has done a good job at the position. I think he will get better as the season goes on."

MORE RAVENS: Harbaugh defends Flacco: 'I'm a Joe Flacco guy'

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Ravens snap count leaders like Eric Weddle, Mike Wallace can use bye week

Ravens snap count leaders like Eric Weddle, Mike Wallace can use bye week

The Ravens (3-4) are off until next week, using this weekend’s bye to get healthier and refreshed, in the midst of a four-game losing streak. Some players should be more fatigued than others. Here are the six Ravens who have played at least 400 snaps:

QB Joe Flacco – 511 snaps

Flacco played through a sore shoulder in Week 7, and his surgically-repaired knee hasn’t been an issue. Now the Ravens just need Flacco to play better.

“I feel good - just as you would expect seven games into a season,” said Flacco. “I don’t think about it (his knee) at all when I am out there. I think there are times when I say, ‘Oh man, I took a hit right there in the knee.’ But I think it has held up well, and I am not worried about it while I am out there.”

C Jeremy Zuttah – 510 snaps

Zuttah has managed to stay healthy all season, a rarity for a Ravens offensive lineman. The Ravens are going to need a healthy offensive line, Zuttah included, to get their anemic running game going, and to protect Flacco better.

S Eric Weddle - 436 snaps

Weddle remaining healthy is a key to the second half of the season. He has brought stability to a secondary that depends on him for leadership.

ILB Zach Orr - 433 snaps

Nobody wonders anymore if Orr can handle being a starting linebacker. He leads the team in tackles and his best football should be ahead of him.

LG Alex Lewis - 412 snaps

Lewis has been extremely valuable as a rookie, starting the season at left guard, and switching to left tackle when fellow rookie Ronnie Stanley (foot) went down. With Stanley and Lewis, one bright spot this season is that the Ravens have found their left side of the offensive line for years to come.

WR Mike Wallace - 407 snaps

Wallace leads the Ravens in both receiving yards (490) and touchdown catches (three). Any talk about Wallace being washed up, after subpar seasons with the Vikings and Dolphins, has been silenced.

“He has been a great addition to the Ravens’ organization,” said Ravens wide receivers coach Bobby Engram. “We studied the tape, and I think everybody in the building knew he was still a good football player.”

MORE RAVENS: Harbaugh defends Flacco: 'I'm a Joe Flacco guy'