In a conference room down the hall from his office, Roger Goodell played the role of running back while a youth coach demonstrated the safest way to tackle.
The NFL commissioner was impressed. "I like your technique initiative," Goodell told three player safety coaches trained by USA Football, the national governing body for youth football.
Heads Up Football was launched Wednesday. The program uses a three-step game plan to ensure safer play. USA Football is training the player safety coaches, who then will teach coaches at their leagues and educate parents and players on the proper way of tackling to avoid injuries.
Those coaches also will educate everyone involved in youth football about concussion awareness and the correct way to identify and use equipment. One of the breakthroughs is encouraging parents to be "collectively part of the solution," said Scott Hallenbeck, USA Football's executive director.
"I really like the idea of the parents being involved," Goodell added. "I have 11-year-old girls and the first thing I focus on is the coaches. Are they capable of supervising? Are they capable of teaching?"
For now, Heads Up Football is a pilot program that Hallenbeck hopes becomes the norm across America.
The first three player safety coaches are Rick Regalado of Santa Monica, Calif., Tom Healy of Fairfax, Va., and Michael Brandt of Noblesville, Ind. Each was chosen by the commissioner of his local league, and, after the coaches completed USA Football's training regimen, they headed back home to pass on the knowledge.
Ideally, there will be player safety coaches working in every league, although that could take years to implement.
HARRISON HAS SURGERY: Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison underwent left knee surgery on Wednesday, clouding his chances of returning in time for the start of the regular season. Coach Mike Tomlin called the procedure "minor" but wouldn't put a timetable on when Harrison will be ready. The four-time Pro Bowler and 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year will remain on the physically unable to perform list indefinitely.
WITTEN OUT WITH SPLEEN INJURY: Jason Witten is going to have to get used to not doing much of anything if he wants to play in the season opener next month. Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday that his Pro Bowl tight end sustained a "slightly lacerated" spleen in the preseason opener Monday night against Oakland. The best way for Witten to heal is to remain as inactive as possible.
BRONCOS' WILLIAMS CONVICTED: Jurors convicted Denver Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams on Wednesday of driving while ability-impaired, casting further doubt on the star tackler's playing time this season. Williams was charged with driving under the influence, but the jury returned the lesser verdict after a trial that lasted less than a day.
BRONCOS' DE INJURED: Denver Broncos defensive end Jason Hunter is out at least two months with a torn triceps and might miss the entire season.Comment on this story
BROWNS SETTLE LAWSUIT: Former Pro Bowl center LeCharles Bentley has settled his lawsuit against the Cleveland Browns, the team he signed with before sustaining a career-ending knee injury that was complicated by a staph infection. Bentley agreed to an out-of-court settlement after meeting with Browns owner Randy Lerner. Browns spokesman Neal Gulkis confirmed Wednesday that the sides have reached a confidential agreement.
SANCHEZ A TOP 10 QB? Bart Scott likes what he has seen from Mark Sanchez on the field this summer. "To take that next step, to be one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league," Scott said Wednesday of the team's expectations for Sanchez. "It's Year 4 and in Year 4, the game slows down for you."