If the league and union are going to agree on anything, the best thing on which to agree is the safety of youth football players.
In a joint announcement, the NFL and NFLPA have commended the efforts of Pop Warner football and USA Football to promote player health and safety.
Pop Warner recently has limited contact in practice to one third of practice time, and banning full-speed, head-on blocking and tackling drills in which players line up more than three yards apart.
USA Football announced in May an initiative to remove from use helmets that are 10 years old or older. In February, USA Football declared that it has commissioned a full-season study of youth football, which will document player health and any injuries suffered in 10 different youth leagues.
“We are pleased that USA Football and Pop Warner have taken these steps,” NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson said in the joint release. “Our hope is that other football leagues and organizations will take the same initiative to review current medical recommendations on player safety and the updated rules and procedures adopted by many football leagues, including the NFL.”
“Player health and safety is important at all levels of the game,” NFLPA Senior Director of Player Services and Development Jason Belser said. “We commend the commitment of USA Football and Pop Warner to their athletes by taking the initiative at the introductory level. This should serve as an example for all youth, high school and college programs.”
The changes at the lower levels of the sport quite possibly flow from the NFL’s efforts to reduce contact in practice. And if it’s indeed an example of the trickle-down dynamic, here’s hoping that the NFL takes more steps to make the game safer in ways that won’t alter the nature of the sport.
Of course, that would require even more agreements between the NFL and NFLPA.