Youth football and rugby to get together

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Football and rugby are getting together to promote player safety.

A youth clinic featuring the Heads Up Tackling program will be held on May 31as part of the final day of the Collegiate Rugby Championship.

Former players and NFL executives will help educate coaches and young players on the value of safe tackling at the new Academy Fields located on the grounds of PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. All players and coaches are invited to stay for the day's final Rugby 7's championship match.

NFL director of football development Matt Birk and former players Hollis Thomas and Ike Reese will participate.

''I'm looking forward to learning more about rugby and its techniques, some of which I anticipate being useful and applicable to football,'' said Birk, who won a Super Bowl with Baltimore in the 2012 season. ''We at the NFL are open to learning and interested in any relationships or discussions that can help make our game safer.''

Rhino Heads Up Tackling is a step-by-step protocol to safely teach the core principles of the skill, utilizing five fundamentals through a series of drills. The purpose is to reinforce proper tackling mechanics and teach them with a focus on reducing helmet contacts. It is a technique rugby long has used, significantly reducing head injuries and concussions in both 15's rugby and 7's, the game which will be part of the 2016 Olympics.

''Both football and rugby have a common core of athleticism and teamwork,'' said tournament director Donal Walsh, but most importantly they need to be safe and fun for all involved. We think this clinic will have great value for anyone interested in either football or rugby, and will educate both on how to play correctly.''

The clinic will help conclude the two-day Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship festival, the largest gathering of collegiate and high school rugby teams in America. Twenty schools will be competing for the national title.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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