NEW ORLEANS — President Obama told The New Republic in an interview that, if he had a son, he would “have to think long and hard before I let him play football”, citing the dangers of the sport.
Suffice it to say, the players and coaches participating in Super Bowl XLVII disagreed with the president’s assessment.
“If President Obama feels that way, then (there will) be a little less competition for Jack Harbaugh when he gets older,” said 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh of his son, who shares a name with Jim and John Harbaugh’s father.
“I think that’s a great answer,” John Harbaugh added later during the Ravens’ media session. “Football’s a great game. And everybody who’s played the game know what a great game it is, and what it provides young people, and what it provided someone like me — an opportunity to grow as a person.
“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.”
Obama’s comments figure to be front and center again later this week when commissioner Roger Goodell holds his annual state of the league address. Goodell has very publicly attempted to combat the growing number of serious head injuries suffered by NFL players, though many would argue that not enough has been done.
The Ravens have long been known as one of the league’s most physical teams. Safety Bernard Pollard upheld that reputation in last Sunday’s AFC title game with a a crunching blow on New England running back Steven Ridley that left Ridley with a concussion.
Pollard defended his play — “It’s just a tackle. It’s football,” he said after the Ravens win — but then told CBSSports.com that “30 years from now, I don’t think (the NFL) will be in existence … with the direction things are going” in terms of policing the players.
“The truth is football takes its toll on our (lives) and our bodies,” veteran Baltimore safety Ed Reed said. “We age faster than everyone (because) of what we do — it makes you think about your livelihood after football, how much you’re going to have to spend on your body.
Still, Reed said he has staved off the adverse effects of the game with extra work off the field. And, almost universally, the 49ers and Ravens who spoke Monday fell in line with Reed’s thinking: that football is a dangerous sport, but one worth the risks.
“It’s not like we signed up and thought we were going to play tennis,” San Francisco’s Aldon Smith said. “It’s a physical game. Everybody plays hard — and guys get hit sometimes. That’s what we all know coming into the game. We all signed up for it.”