By Bill Bradley, contributing editor
The Heads Up Football program showed up in the Boston area with big numbers.
More than 300 mothers attended for Thursday night's Moms Football Safety Clinic at the New England Patriots' training facility in Foxborough, Mass to learn what the USA Football program was about.
The event drew a wide range of speakers, from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, from Heads Up Football Ambassador Chris Golic to Rhonda Tippett, wife of PatriotsHall of Famer Andre Tippett. They all brought the same message: Football can be fun for kids but it can also be played safely.
"It's important for us to talk about the rewards of playing the game of football," Goodell said. "It's important for us to get the right information to moms and to families that are making the decisions -- and to encourage our kids to play sports.
"We believe ... in what the values of football can do for kids who play it. ... The things we learned playing football we use today and I think they are part of whatever success we have."
The moms were led through drills by, among others, former New England Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest and USA Football Master Trainer Andy Rylan. The pair showed many moms how to properly keep their head out of the tackle, something the Heads Up Football program teaches kids.
"Our moms start in a great breakdown position ready to play football," Ryland said, leading one mother to a tackling dummy. "They're going to close in on the ball carrier. When they close that distance, they're going to buzz their feet to widen their base to get ready for contact. At last minute, they're going to sink down into their hip position. They're going to shoot their hips and rip their arms."
The Heads Up Football program was created by USA Football with the NFL as a way to teach the safer method of tackling. Nearly every NFL team has hosted a Moms Clinic since the first one was held last summer at Ohio State University.
"I've never been a part of something like this," he said. "I think in today's game, it's key to teach parents, kids, everybody about tackling.
"Now when you watch the NFL with all the fines and all the new research, parents are worried. I think this is great by Heads Up to do this and teach moms how to tackle, teach them how we have fun out here so they can pass it along to their kids."
The program also is important to Kraft, who has seen the game evolve since he bought the Patriots in 1994 -- and before that as a season-ticket holder since 1971.
"It's great having the decision-makers of the household here and learning the life lessons that football teaches like nothing else in life does," he said.
Added McGinest: "I think it's great. The education of getting the moms involved so they can see how the kids are prepared and how they should be prepared, how they should be coached, and some of the proper techniques. When I was growing up, we had nothing like this."