With football increasingly losing popularity among younger players, former Green Bay Packers great Brett Favre didn’t help the Pop Warner leagues much by saying he’d rather his grandsons play a safer sport than football.
Football has suffered a few body blows to its popularity, especially for youth leagues, with parents who have become afraid that the sport is too rough for kids. For several years, now, worries over player safety have been a big concern. Parents have been specifically worried about brain injuries and concussions.
Favre didn’t help much for those who want to keep the game of football alive in a recent appearance on the CBS Sports Pick Six Podcast.
“I have three grandsons — and people may wonder why a retired player would be so adamant about concussions and making the environment safer — I don’t know if they’ll play football. They’re eight [years], three [years] and several months old,” Favre said. “What little bit I know now — and it’s more than when I played — concussions [are] not good. And definitely not for a youth. And so, there is something out there that can make the environment safer, aside from helmets, and that is the surface. I think you have to look at the surface as an equal if not more important than the equipment you wear.”
Favre added that he would discourage his grandsons from playing football and would actually rather they play golf.
“I’m not going to encourage them to play. I’m not going to discourage [them],” Favre added. “But I say this to everyone who will listen: if my grandsons were to say, and they call me Paw-Paw, if they were to say ‘Paw-Paw, will you be my caddy in golf, I think I’m going to do golf instead of football,’ I would be much more happy, satisfied and excited by that then by them playing football.”
Favre said he’d worry to see them taking hits on a football field.
“Every tackle I would be cringing, hoping they get up and not shaking their head and saying they got a headache. But the likelihood of that happening by them playing football is very high. So I’d much rather them choose a safer route,” he said.
Player safety has been a growing issue for the National Football League and has featured as an important stumbling point between the league and the players union. In response, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has frequently spoken of the league’s commitment to player safety.
But even as he has said the NFL places player safety at a high priority, he has also attacked many of the medical and scientific studies players have used to back up their negotiations.
Last August, for instance, Goodell said that “there are a lot more questions than answers” on the risk of brain injury in football.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.