Drew Brees is a Super Bowl champion, a Super Bowl MVP, and a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. But he’s also a dad – and if his three sons want to play tackle football someday, they can.
But for now, flag football it is.
“Listen, I love football,” Brees said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I think it’s one of the greatest team sports you can play. I think there’s life lessons you learn with football that it’s hard to replicate with any other sport: teamwork, work ethic, dedication, overcoming adversity, trust, confidence, being there for one another and all those things. And yet, I feel like there’s an appropriate time to put on the pads, to put on the helmet, to begin the physical, hitting part of football – which, to me, honestly, I don’t think is necessary until maybe middle school and beyond.”
Think that would stunt a prospect’s development? Well, Brees, a 10-time Pro Bowler, didn’t put on football pads until his freshman year of high school.
“I played flag football up until then, and my sons play flag football right now,” Brees said. “They’re 8, 6, and 4 years old. My little girl is 2. She might end up playing flag football. Who knows? But the bottom line is, I think that’s one of the best games you can play as a youngster, especially since it keeps you engaged in the sport. You can learn the great fundamentals of just throwing, passing, catching and that kind of thing and all the lessons of being part of the team like that. I think there’s a great family-togetherness element to it as well when it comes to a football team.”
Brees is not forcing his kids to play (flag) football. If they tell him they don’t want to play, that’s fine. But if they wanted to play tackle right now, Brees would put his foot down.
“I’d say, ‘No, I think it’s too early. We’ll wait until I think it’s the appropriate time,’” Brees said. “I know there’s a lot of brain development that’s happening for kids up until age 13 – and obviously still beyond that – but a huge part of it is in those formative years in elementary school up until middle school. I just don’t think it’s worth the risk. I don’t think it’s necessary. I think you can still get the great benefits of football from flag football, keep you engaged in the sport, get you excited about it, develop a love for the game during that period of time. And then when it’s appropriate to put pads on – whenever a parent deems that appropriate – then they do.
“There’s risks associated with every sport,” Brees continued. “Call it lacrosse, call it rugby, call it soccer, call it cheerleading – you name it, there’s risks associated with all of them. It’s important that we understand this risks, and in the event that a child does get hurt or injured – whether it’s a brain injury or a concussion or something like that – we have the ability and the knowledge to hold them out to make sure that they’re healed. Just like you would heal a sprained ankle, you have to heal what would be a concussion or any type of head or neck injury in the same manner. Don’t go out there until you are 100 percent and you’re healed.”