What does the future hold for professional football? - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

What does the future hold for professional football?


New Orleans, La. - In a matter of days, thousands will gather to watch men battle with hard hits and tough tackles. It's an American tradition that has been under the microscope lately, when it comes to layer safety. But how safe can the game get? And where will it take the sport itself?

Rich Mauti was a New Orleans Saint from 1977 to 1983. "It's a brutal game," said Mauti. "Clearly it's a very rough and brutal game, but I think it's part of our heritage to some degree."

Mauti says his years in the NFL took a toll on his body, but he would never trade the experience. Both of his sons played college ball at Penn State. His youngest is hoping to go pro.

"Your next question is going to be, well what do you think? Do you want him to play in the NFL because it's so brutal and my answer is absolutely not because I'm a parent and I just know how tough it is," said Mauti. "But I know the love of the game because I played it," he added.

President Obama apparently wouldn't be so keen on a son of his playing. He was quoted by The New Republic as saying, "I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you, if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football."

The President's quote has prompted lots of questions during Super Bowl Week. Here's how the coaches of Super Bowl 47 responded. "I have a four month old, soon to be five month old son, Jack Harbaugh," said 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. "If President Obama feels that way, it'd be a little less competition for Jack Harbaugh when he gets older."

Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh also responded to the President's quote. "It's challenging. It's tough. It's hard," said Harbaugh. "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."

"It's a contact sport," said George Atallah with the NFL Players Association. Some would call it a collision sport and our players play because they love it."

Atallah spoke with Fox 8 before a Tulane Forum on "The Future of Football." He said he's in New Orleans for Super Bowl Week to spread a message of making the game better and safer for players. "Ever since I've had this job, in the past four years, you've seen rule changes and you've seen the game transform a little bit and it hasn't hurt revenues. It hasn't hurt television ratings," said Atallah.

The question remains: How safe can the game become? Also, how will safety concerns transform the game decades from now?

"In the Roman days they killed each other in the coliseum," said Mauti. "We're not killing each other, but we're battling in front of crowds and we're cheering people getting knocked out. It's just part of the way our culture has been over the years. It's a game of tackling, catching and running and hitting. If you take that away, you're playing chess," he said. "Football isn't going anywhere. I promise you."

Mauti tells Fox 8, while he is a concerned parent, he fully supports his son Michael as he pursues his dream of playing in the NFL.  

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