- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW ORLEANS -- Lots of buzz going around here this week about player safety issues and the future of the game. Much of it has been fueled by President Obama saying earlier in the week that he'd have to think long and hard about letting his son play football, if he had a son. Not surprisingly, there has been some backlash in the NFL ranks.
"I guess my knee-jerk reaction is, to me, that's an irresponsible statement by the president," said former New York Giants center Shaun O'Hara, now an NFL Network analyst. "I know he's not the first one to say it, but being the president, I think he could be more responsible than that."
O'Hara joked that, "Obama doesn't have the body to play football -- he has a basketball body, so I don't blame him," but he turned serious when he defended the game he loves against the idea of injury risk as a deterrent.
"I understand his concern, but this game is about so much more than just injuries," O'Hara said. "Kids, the values that they're learning by playing the game of football, the team sport, the idea of setting goals, working together with others to attain that goal and then finally achieving that goal. Those are principles in life that we all need to learn, and I think it's great. People say football will make a man out of you? No, football will teach you how to be a man."
O'Hara's first child, a son, is due in the coming months, and he made it clear he doesn't share the president's reservations.
"If my son wanted to play football, I would absolutely let him. I would drive him," O'Hara said. "But I would teach him, because it's just like anything. You wouldn't give your son a circular saw and let him go and start whittling wood. You would teach him how to use that. So my issue is, when I hear parents say, 'I don't want him to play football,' well, it's because you don't want to take the time to teach him how to do it right. Or you don't know how to teach him right.
"So that to me is a big sticking point. When I see kids that want to play football, I just want them to learn it the right way. We need to make sure our coaches are teaching our kids the right way to do things."