The concerns raised by President Barack Obama about the potential dangers of football are shared by Ravens free safety Ed Reed.
Reed agrees with Obama, who said he would have reservations about allowing a son to play the game due to safety issues.
"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.'
"We've got some leaks in it that need to be worked out. Every medical training room should be upgraded. Training rooms can be a lot better. When you've got the president talking about it, you got something."
Reed has dealt with several serious injuries, including undergoing surgery on his hip and gutting it out through a torn shoulder labrum and a nerve impingement in his neck.
In an interview with The New Republic, Obama indicated that he regards football as a violent game.
"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," Obama said. "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."
Not everyone shared Reed's opinion, though.
That included Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who doesn't like the idea of kids being urged to not play a game he loves.
"I don’t agree with that," Harbaugh said. "Football is a great game. Anybody that’s played the game knows what a great game it is. What it provides for young people, what it provides for people like me is an opportunity to grow as a person. It’s challenging, it’s tough, it’s hard. There’s no game like football. It’s the type of sport that brings out the best in you. It kind of shows you who you are.
"You have an opportunity to make your first tackle or make your first block or do something in football, because it’s such a tough thing. It’s a little bit of a manhood test a little bit. When you get done you say, ‘You know what, I’m a football player. I play the game of football and that makes me special a little bit.’ I think it’s a huge part of our educational system in this country and it’s going to be around for a long time.”
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco shared Harbaugh's sentiment, noting that it's not like players are forced to play the game. They take risks of their own volition.
“I think we all understand that it’s probably not a safe sport, but it’s something that we choose to do,’’ Flacco said. “When you talk about little kids doing it, they’re not having the collisions we’re having at the NFL level. I mean, they are a bunch of 50-pound to 140-pound kids. I don’t know how much damage they’re doing to each other.”
A married father of six, six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk acknowledged that Obama had certainly raised some legitimate concerns.
"I have three sons and I think anyone who is a parent can relate to that," Birk said. "Certainly it is a dangerous game and we’re finding out more and more, every day, the long-term effects that this game can have. I think it’s a joint effort with the commissioner, with coaches, with players, with everybody, everybody that wants to watch and make this game as safe as it can be. I think we’re making strides in that. Football’s a great game.
"Obviously it’s a great game for NFL players, it’s how we make a living, but most kids who play football aren’t going to make it to the NFL. It’s such a great game because it teaches you about life and lessons and there’s so much to be gained by participating in football. It’s served us all well and just to continue to have this conversation and continue to talk about it and just do whatever we can to make it safer whether it be through rule change or research.”
Despite the precautions he's taken, Reed knows he'll never be the same from his grueling experiences playing the game.
"I felt like I played the game as safe as possible," Reed 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."
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