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Obama addresses concussions in wide-ranging interview

  • By NFL.com
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Days before the 2008 presidential election, then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama appeared on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" in a segment with opponent John McCain, during which the two candidates were asked what's the one thing they'd change about the sports world.

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Obama used the opportunity to stump for a playoff system in college football. Close to four years later, now-President Obama again voiced his desire to see college football's postseason system tweaked, and he used the New York Giants' unexpected Super Bowl run as evidence that a championship shouldn't be decided by poll voters.

"Part of what makes sports great, part of what makes March Madness great, the NFL playoffs great, is every once in a while, something happens during the playoffs that shows the character of a team," Obama said during a sit down with Bill Simmons on Grantland.com's "B.S. Report."

"Look at the Giants this year. Nobody would have picked them. They wouldn't have been crowned as champions if you had a coaches' poll at the end of the year. But they made the plays when it counted."

The 25-minute podcast, which aired online Thursday, touched on a wide range of sports issues -- Obama spent a good portion of the interview discussing the NBA and his Chicago Bulls -- but he also discussed the issue of concussions in the NFL and hinted that he had been paying attention to the recent NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and the jaw-dropping numbers posted by Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe.

Obama said he knew late Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, who committed suicide last year and reportedly asked his family to have his brain examined for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease tied to depression, dementia and suicide.

"When you think about the toll that NFL players are taking, it's tough," Obama said. "Now, the problem is, if you talk to NFL players, they're going to tell you that that's the risk I take; this is the game I play. And I don't know whether you can make football football if there's not some pretty significant risk factors.

"Part of the problem is just the speed and the size of these guys now is — you watch the old tapes from the '50s and the '60s," Obama added. "they look like they're going in slow motion. And now, what, they just had the combine and they're talking about some guy who is like 340, who runs a 4.8 ... a 3-foot vertical. And I don't know what you do if a guy like that hits you."

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