Terrell Thomas, NFL stars show fundamentals to young players

With safety concerns the main motif permeating throughout the NFL offseason, players are taking the opportunity at summer camps to teach kids the proper technique in the hope those lessons will lead to a cleaner, safer game.

Take New York Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas, who hosted his fourth annual youth football camp Saturday at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., where approximately 200 kids, 7 to 14 years old, showed up to learn from nearly a dozen NFL players.

Thomas said the impetus behind holding a camp was to give back to the community and provide young players an opportunity to learn from professionals.

"We want to teach them, No. 1 to have fun and work hard, No. 2 to listen, but the last thing is proper technique," Thomas said. "That is why you are learning from professionals."

Those professionals included teammates Justin Tuck and Keith Rivers and former Giant Will Blackmon. Ryan Clady (Denver Broncos), Eric Wright (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Kevin Thomas (Indianapolis Colts), Eric Weddle (San Diego Chargers), Orlando Scandrick (Dallas Cowboys), along with free agents Gerald Alexander, Thomas Williams and Josh Pinkard, also taught at the camp.

Thomas doesn't have any qualms about teaching youngsters the game, even though some NFL players have said they'd think twice about letting their kids play football because of the injury risk.

"I've been playing since I was seven years old. First it was touch, then tackle," Thomas said. "It's a violent sport. You can get hurt walking down the stairs. I think the media has kind of blew up all the concussions and injuries. They have always been around. It's a part of football, just like boxing or any other sport."

Tuck, who spent most of the camp showing kids how to shed blocks in addition to proper tackling techniques, said teaching young players the fundamentals can help them become better while avoiding injuring themselves and others.

"The guys who don't know the fundamentals of football get hurt (and don't) make it even though they have all this athletic ability," Tuck said. "These kids want to come out here and catch a touchdown pass, but you got to learn how to run a route first, or you want to come out here and get a sack, but you need to learn how to defeat a block first."

Thomas' camp focused on everything from the proper way to hit a quarterback to how to take a five-step drop. Most of the NFL players in attendance believed teaching the fundamentals to young players will help the game's future.

"Especially with a lot of the rules changing in the NFL, especially the tackling and things like that, the fundamentals are becoming an essential part of teaching our future and teaching the game of football to the future of the game," said Alexander, who previously played with the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets last season.

Added Wright: "It can definitely help in the long run because the kids will already have a good picture of how they should be playing the game."

Thomas said he's excited to be in a position every summer to teach young players the right way to play.

"You can get hurt doing anything," he said. "So, if anything, I'm glad these parents let their kids come out. For some of these kids, it's their first time playing football, so they are kind of learning the ropes."

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