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Larry Fitzgerald, Roger Goodell among NFL reps in talks with U.S. military

The NFL, U.S. military and the Marines have been holding meeting at the Pentagon since May to discuss ways to bring concussion education reform for players and soldiers. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

The National Football League has taken its first formal step in partnering with the U.S. military and the Marines to change the way people, specifically children in sports and soldiers in combat, think of the consequences to sustaining a concussion, according to the Washington Post's Rick Maese:

Beset by the ongoing concussion issue, the NFL has partnered with the U.S. Army and Marines to try to change attitudes of both athletes and troops toward brain injuries. While the NFL has worked with the USO and sent its athletes to military bases around the world since the 1960s, both sides say this is the first formal undertaking aimed at effecting change on this issue.

Medical personnel from the league and military will share information and the two sides are in the early stages of plotting an awareness campaign that will target current players, active military personnel and future generations of athletes and servicemen.

According to the report, NFL players, coaches and medical personnel have held two meetings at the Pentagon in the past few weeks. Among those in attendance were Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark, ESPN analyst Merril Hoge, Cleveland tackle Joe Thomas and retired Giants' center Shaun O'Hara. In May, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met with the Army's Chief of Staff, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno.

“It has to start with the kids,” said former running back Brian Westbrook. “Then they’ll get older and they’ll realize, ‘Hey, this isn’t just part of the sport. It’s way more serious than that and it has to be treated the right way.’”

“Just the knowledge of what a concussion is has totally changed,” said Mike Rucker, a retired defensive end who had military personnel seated on either side of him. “We thought a concussion was when somebody was knocked out and was unresponsive. Now we have the understanding, no, it’s those little stars that you see.”

The NFL and the military are hoping to launch an awareness campaign to include posters about concussion safety and medical information that would be hung in players locker rooms and in soldiers barracks, as well as social media strategies targeted at bridging the gap between younger and elder generations to facilitate more dialogue.

According to the report, Maj. Gen. Stehphen R. Lanza said the NFL and the U.S. military need to change the current attitude of sacrificing oneself for the greater good if the individual is in real danger:

”You hear them saying, ‘I’m not taking myself off the battlefield.’ Why? ‘Because the guy on my left and my right trust that I’ll be there,’” Major General Stephen R. Lanza said. “You heard the same thing from the players. ‘I’m not coming out of the game because I need to help my team.’”

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