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Safer Play/Safer Helmets Press Event - Saturday, August 4, 2012, Akron, Ohio

September 17, 2012

Good morning everyone.

Thank you, Commissioner Goodell, for that kind introduction.

I am so pleased to join you in this campaign to bring safer play onto football fields here in Ohio, in the Gulf Coast, around New York City, the Bay Area, and in the years to come, the rest of the nation.

I want to commend you for being an advocate for the health and safety of all football players and for strongly supporting this important safety initiative.

To the Cleveland Browns organization, thank you for hosting this event and for working with and inspiring young players in the community.

Look at these young athletes behind me.

We are here this morning because we want these players, and the millions of others across the country, to enjoy the game and still have a bright and promising future - a future free of the pain and suffering that often comes with traumatic brain injuries.

This campaign, this event, this gathering of leaders in the football and safety communities is what culture change looks like.

That change is happening now.

It is happening with the players of Akron's Pee Wee football league. Because of this effort, they were able to trade in helmets that are probably more appropriate at this point for a child's shelf in his room than on his head on the field.

But a special condition of those youth programs receiving these helmets was that all their coaches and commissioners had to complete a USA Football safety training course.

While newer, properly maintained helmets are important, the real game-changer is learning how to play the game and use those helmets properly, and understanding what helmets can and cannot do.

And make no mistake that change is happening at the youth level. In an attempt to limit head injuries, Pop Warner issued new rules back in June that put in place restrictions on the amount of contact players can have in practice.

I applaud this action.

Fewer hits to the head is the best way to reduce the risk of brain injury.

Football is at the heart and soul of America's deeply rooted passion for sports. I grew up in Georgia and have lived for decades in South Carolina, and I LOVE football. Friday night football and Saturday SEC games were part of my upbringing, and I am a passionate fan of the University of South Carolina.

I'm sure many of these fine young players here today have aspirations to play in the Horseshoe in Columbus or in Cleveland Browns Stadium. They may dream of being Eddie George or Jim Brown.

Coaches and parents will call upon them to give it their all, practice hard, and leave everything on the field on game day. But, in return, they deserve the best coaching, the best equipment, and the best care if they get hurt.

It is for this reason that I am so proud to have assisted with this player safety initiative getting off the ground. And there is no better place to make such an announcement than the cradle of football.

I want to thank the NFL, the NFL Players Association, USA Football, CDC, NAERA, NOCSAE, SGMA, the major helmet manufacturers, and the NCAA for their efforts as part of this campaign.

I would to close my remarks by giving special recognition to my Deputy Chief of Staff Elliot Kaye. Elliot has been the driving force for seeing through my vision with this campaign. We are here today because of his efforts to unify everyone around the shared goal of creating safer play for all football players.

Thank you.

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