NFL.com staff report
CHICAGO -- The first-ever NFL Draft Family Football Clinic kicked off Saturday morning at the NFL PLAY 60 Clinic Field in Grant Park.
The event featured a panel composed of former Eagles defensive lineman Mike Golic, his wife Christine Golic, St. Louis Rams defensive end Kyle Long, his mother Diane Long and former Chicago Bears offensive lineman James "Big Cat" Williams discussing the value of playing football and how to make the game safer for children.
The goal of the panel is to give parents knowledge about the game, helping them to make better choices for children interested in football.
The ex-players discussed how equipment is so much more sophisticated now than it was when they were growing up at a time when the coach plucked dusty helmets from the basement of the church on the first day of practices.
Christine Golic spoke of the challenges facing mothers in an era of advanced awareness for player safety.
"I've traveled around the country, and I get the same echoed feeling from moms," Golic said. "Today they feel a lot of peer pressure from other moms that say, 'Why are you letting your son play football? I can't believe you're letting your son play football.' And I'm here to tell you that it's so much different today than it was when Diane and I were on the sidelines. USA Football has developed programs to teach how to tackle, what to do in heat and hydration situations, what to do in the event of a concussion. Years ago that didn't happen. And I'm not talking 10 or 20 years ago. I'm talking five years ago."
The days of old-school coaches refusing to grant water breaks in the height of summer or pressuring kids to "rub some dirt on it" and play through an injury are over.
"Now they see that that's barbaric," Golic continued. "As a mom, there's never been a better time to let your son participate in football, because of the changes that are happening and will continue to change. We're smart enough to realize that it's not perfect right now. And we're going to keep looking at it and figuring out different ways to make it a better and safer game for your kids."