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How big of a threat are bills in California, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York?

By Jacob Feldman
April 04, 2018

If you want to understand why the NFL will penalize leading with the helmet, it might be worth listening to Natalie Manley, a state representative in Illinois. Speaking last month, she admitted, "I don't know anything about football." But based on the testimony she heard as a member of the chamber's mental health committee, she voted yea on the CTE Prevention Act, which would ban tackle football for children 12 and under statewide. The bill reached the full house floor, leading football advocates to contact Manley and ultimately sway her. "All these people whose lives are completely absorbed in football have taught me that they are doing everything geared towards a safe game," she said. She's no longer supporting HB 4341. Still, the proposal (which has been named after Dave Duerson, the Bears safety who was posthumously diagnosed with CTE after dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound) will be considered by the reps when they return to Springfield. The bill's sponsor maintains that it remains viable, meaning football still must prove to doubters that the game is safe—or, that at least it is working to become so.

Similar skirmishes over the sport's grassroots future rage on in three other states. In May, a California state committee will discuss the Safe Youth Football Act, which would similarly ban tackle football for players younger than 12, according to a recent New York Times report. In New York, a corresponding proposal is named after John Mackey, a former NFLPA president who died at 69 following a dementia diagnosis. Most recently, New Jersey deputy speaker Valerie Vainieri Huttle introduced legislation along the same lines. She was up-front about her intentions, saying she did not expect the bill to pass, at least as currently written. “The first step may be that parents sign a waiver that states they understand the risks associated with playing,” she said.

Football ban legislation will likely prove equally unsuccessful elsewhere. In March, Maryland killed a bill that would have barred tackle football (as well as dangerous elements in other sports). Opponents argue that ending youth football will only make the sport more risky for 13 and 14-year-olds hitting for the first time with bigger bodies. Others suggest the attempts to control child activities are "downright un-American." That said, it's fair to connect the public debate with the rule changes we've seen, from the NFL's controversial decision to Pop Warner further limiting contact in practice and eliminating kickoffs entirely. Football has needed to change, and the sport organizations would rather do the adjusting themselves than have legislators come in with an iron fist.

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NOW ON THE MMQB: Andy Benoit analyzes the Brandin Cooks-Rams trade ... Peter King answers your questions in his mailbag column ... Jonathan Jones explains Lamar Jackson's unconventional spring by looking at the quarterback's family and his past ... and more.

WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: Tim Rohan spanned the globe to report on football's varied overseas envoys ... Conor Orr went back to 2004 to provide perspective on this draft ... Andy Staples put together this year's We-Told-You-So draft team ... and more.


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1. A year after acquiring wideout Brandin Cooks, the Patriots have shipped him to the Rams for a first-rounder (with L.A. turning a sixth-round pick into a fourth-rounder). Cooks fills a hole in Sean McVay's offense with Sammy Watkins now a Chief, as the title contender out west continues to wheel and deal (Ndamukong Suh's introduction to the local media is expected shortly, by the way).

2. The New York Times has written again about the various rules restricting NFL cheerleaders, including one that puts women in situations where "you’re afraid you’re going to get touched​," according to a former New Orleans Saints cheerleader. Also in the story: word that the Rams will be adding men to their dance team. Meanwhile, Vogue covered the league's treatment of cheerleaders, with Michelle Ruiz writing, "If NFL teams really want to draw more female fans, try fair pay and fair treatment for your women employees.”

3. How did the Dolphins end up moving on from Mike Pouncey after planning to keep him for 2018? A combination of Pouncey's age, health, and salary cap number led Miami to jump at a compelling offer from the 49ers, Armando Salguero found.

4. In 2015, Raiders owner Mark Davis held a secret meeting with International Gaming Institute director Bo Bernhard in Las Vegas. Davis asked for a formal report on gambling and football. One person in the room at the time said that study was a "catalyst" for the Raiders' impending move to Nevada.

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5. NFL coaches continue to loathe the idea of having access to video on the sideline during games, fearing it would eliminate their competitive advantage.

6. Two-plus years after being shot in the head, Stedman Bailey sat down with Tyler Dunne to discuss that night and his NFL comeback attempt. "I'm ready to show the world," the wide receiver says, "that I can't be stopped."

7. The Titans are expected to announce their new uniforms Wednesday night, but a photo of the refreshed design seems to have leaked already.

8. Two linebackers have found new homes. Former Lion Paul Worrilow signed with the Eagles and Will Compton left Washington for the Titans.

9. Lamar Jackson's decision to go without an agent for the draft process continues to draw criticism. Geoff Schwartz writes, "He’s making a mistake." Danny Heifetz has more on the history and impact of players forgoing representation when they enter the league.

10. The Athletic subscribers can check out this roundtable discussion on covering the NFL draft.

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