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Paup: There's more to football than winning

Nov. 6, 2013
 
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   Kurt Warner recently said he wasn’t sure he would let his sons play football. Tom Brady’s dad said if the clock were turned back to when his superstar quarterback son was 14 years old, he might not let him play football.    The recent debate about concussions in football and their long-term effects, including the possible link to suicide, has many people up in arms about the sport.    So where does former Green Bay Packers linebacker Bryce Paup, currently the head coach at Green Bay Southwest High School, come down on the issue?   Paup played 11 years in the NFL, including with the Packers (1990-94), Bills (1995-97),  Jaguars (1998-99) and Vikings (2000). He earned four Pro Bowl berths and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1995.    “The game is not for everybody,” said Paup, who was a panelist at a sports conference Thursday jointly hosted by St. Norbert College and the Packers at Lambeau Field. “It’s unfortunate, and who knows really the reasons behind the concussions, whether it’s the Pop Warner, the accumulation of concussions that creates the problems, whether it’s bad equipment, whether it’s bad coaching, whether it’s ESPN glorifying people leading with their head knocking the snot out of someone. Who’s to say where that all lies?”     What’s more important to Paup than winning on the gridiron is looking out for his players and teaching them valuable life lessons.    “For me it’s about caring for the kids and making sure that I treat every one of those kids like my son,” said Paup. “I’m not going to risk their health over a stupid game.”    Paup said people raise their eyebrows when they hear him refer to football as a stupid game, considering he’s coaching the sport and earned a lot of money and fame playing it.    “You look at it, it’s just a game,” he said. “It teaches you a lot (about) the game of life, but I’m not going to risk anyone’s health for maybe one play, one game. It’s not worth it. I’ve seen way too many situations where people were pushed back in too soon and had a catastrophic injury and were maimed for the rest of their life, and football’s not worth that. And I won’t do that.”    If anything, Paup is overly cautious in bringing back injured players. If the trainer or doctor gives the OK for an injured player to return, Paup said he might wait even longer.     “I may sit him out another day, a practice, so that mentally he’s OK and he knows I care more about him than about the game,” he said. “Kids see through that stuff and they know why you’re there. It’s my job to show to the parents that you know what, their health is one of the high priorities of me coaching. It’s not just me winning games. If that’s the only thing I’m there for, the kids and parents eventually are going to be turned off. (Winning is) part of it, but you treat people right, care for them, let them know I’m there for you.”     Some might call that approach soft, but Paup’s team is anything but that. Southwest advanced to the state semifinals last season, the best finish in school history.    “I don’t pound those guys,” Paup said. “If anything, I pull back the hitting and after a certain number of games actually shorten practice … just being smart. You can be pretty brave with someone else’s body.”   For the record, Paup’s two oldest sons have played for him at Southwest.

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