HADDONFIELD, N.J. (WTXF) - Thoughts of fall and football are a way off yet, but there's a controversy brewing over football safety for kids. A new proposal in New Jersey would ban tackle football for kids under the age of 12 and there are already defensive moves against it.
Youth football coach and Haddonfield Youth Football League president Sean Leonard tosses the pigskin year round with his son Brady.
"The sport has changed. Its rules change the way we tackle from when I was playing," Leonard said.
Youth football coaches like Sean react to a New Jersey assembly bill that would ban tackle football for kids under 12. If it passed, it would affect hundreds of youth football programs across the state.
"I'm sorry, five and six-year-olds, they don't hit hard enough to cause concussions," said Leonard.
N.J. State Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle introduced the legislation just a few weeks after several former NFL players recommended only flag football under 14 because of concussions and brain injuries in the sport.
"I'm not doing this to kill the most popular sport in America, but if we have evidence of severe injuries, then we have to be proactive to protect kids who play now," said Valerie Vainieri Huttle.
"You're not worried about a tough tackle cause I just man up. Like my dad always says, you man up. Yeah, man up," said player Brody Leonard.
Coach Leonard said the coaching is different and he said the youth equipment is definitely better than it used to be.
"These helmets are padded and are much safer," said Leonard.
While the assemblywoman said she is looking at recommendations from the Concussion Legacy Foundation and the American Association of Pediatrics, some parents aren't sure about regulating youth sport.
"I like the idea flag football for younger kids," said Danelle Rios, whose son plays baseball. "I do think the equipment is getting better again, but I still think a decision lies in the parents' hands."
"I know what's best for my children. I would never put my children or anyone's children in danger of safety if I thought it was a problem," said Leonard.
The assemblywoman said if there are safety risks for youth football, than a conversation about safety should begin.
The proposal needs legislative approval and the Governor's signature. It is very early in the process.