AUGUSTA, Maine — Saying the days of winning one for the Gipper are over, Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett came to Maine's Capitol on Wednesday to champion a bill addressing a growing concern from school sport fields to the National Football League: head injuries.
The former New England Patriots star linebacker joined others at a State House news conference to pitch a bill to give school districts across Maine a uniform protocol to manage head injuries suffered by athletes.
The state Education Department would have to adopt a policy for all schools to remove from practices and games any student suspected of having sustained a head injury until written clearance for the student to resume play. The policy acknowledges the potential to cause more harm if athletes with head injuries aren't benched immediately.
"It seems like the more we know about concussions, the less we know about them, (and that's) especially true with young people," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Donald Pilon, D-Saco.
Tippett, who spent his entire 12-year career with the Patriots and is now the Super Bowl-bound team's executive director of community affairs, said that educating coaches, athletes and their parents about properly managing head injuries, including medical treatment, is the key.
"I think what we're trying to do here in Maine (is to) educate our families, players and coaches, make everybody accountable for the well-being and health of our young kids," he said.
"We're not trying to be tough guys because that's what the sport calls for, when you're injured you go out and you play and you take one for the Gipper," Tippett said, a reference to Notre Dame football legend George Gipp, who upon his death bed reportedly asked his former coach to use his memory to rally the team to victory.
Maine would become the latest of about 30 states to take some kind of action addressing head injuries, Pilon said. Such action has the endorsement of the NFL, said David Krichavsky, director of community affairs for the league.
"NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made player health and safety his No. 1 priority, and that extends not just to the terrific athletes you see on the NFL playing fields on Sunday or Monday nights, but that extends to youth athletes of all ages, both sexes, and all sports," Krichavsky said.