When it comes to his own playing career as it pertains to 2016, Pittsburgh Steelers veteran outside linebacker James Harrison made it clear that he only has one thing on his mind, and that is getting a third Super Bowl ring for his collection. It is an entirely different story, however, when it comes to his sons beginning to follow his path at a young age.
The father of two young boys, both of Harrison’s children are already participating in flag football, but he has hesitations about allowing them to advance to the next stage of the peewee ranks, which introduces tackling into the equation. Such an idea gives him pause.
Not, perhaps, because he is overly worried about the very nature of the game, but rather, it seems, due to certain assurances that he would require about how the youth football team would be coached, as he told reporters yesterday during the first session of the Steelers’ three-day minicamp.
Speaking of his elder son, Harrison said, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, “he wants to start playing tackle [football]. To be honest with you, I’m not comfortable with it unless I can be there every day”. And that would, of course, be a very difficult thing to accomplish while he is still an active player in the NFL with his own practice schedule to tend to.
But why his required attendance? He said, “I want [my son] to learn [tackling] properly. I don’t want him to go to a program where they’ve just got the kids doing Oklahoma drills and stuff like that”, describing such practices for that level of football as “banging their heads for no reason”.
Harrison made headlines last year when he took to social media to broadcast his opinion about participation trophies after his sons received just such items, which he promptly returned. He may not believe in being rewarded simply for participating, but he certainly believes in learning the game in a safe and responsible manner, which is why he would evidently want to have the opportunity to oversee how his children are run through practices.
It sounds to me as though his children might have to wait on entering the tackle football leagues until Harrison decides to hang up his own cleats for good, and from the sound of things yesterday, that might not be as soon as most have come to believe.
He told reporters that he feels as good as he had when the Steelers last went to the Super Bowl, and that he is not closing the book on the 2016 season being his last year. That was the assumption that we have all been working on, considering he seemed to strongly contemplate retirement once again this offseason.
The discussion surrounding youth football has begun to draw more and more attention in recent years. Many current NFL players have said that they would not want their children to play. Meanwhile, other ambassadors of the game have tried to reach out and communicate to the “mothers” of youth football players advocating for the game’s safety, a strategy that has not been entirely successful, drawing some backlash.