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Bengals’ Leonard says NFL working hard to limit concussions

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Concussions have long been a part of the landscape of professional football.

But in recent months, the effects of concussions have taken a tragic turn with the suicide of NFL great Junior Seau and large scale litigation by retired players looking to be compensated for the long-term effects of head trauma.

Cincinnati Bengals running back Brian Leonard believes that the NFL is moving in the right direction to deal with the issue.

“Concussions are part of the reality and the business of the game,” said Leonard, the former Gouverneur player who reached the NFL after a standout career at Rutgers University. “The medical people say that anytime you get hit and see stars you have had a form of a concussion. But the problem has been compounded because of players leading with their head when they make tackles.

“NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is putting a stop to that, taking action against all types of illegal hits. And the teams are doing the right thing. If a player shows symptoms of a concussion, the trainers will have him out for a game.”

Leonard believes that another important factor in combatting the proliferation of concussions lies at the grass roots — coaches teaching and emphasizing the dire importance of proper tackling technique to youngsters.

Proper technique in all facets of the game is the focal point of the fifth annual Brian Leonard Youth Football Camp, which will return to SUNY Potsdam from June 28 to July 1.

“We will definitely be talking to the campers about the importance of doing things the right away to avoid concussions,” Leonard said.

Leonard held his first camp in 2008 in central New Jersey. In 2009, he moved the camp to his home region because opportunities were limited for north country youth to participate in football programs and summer camps.

“Playing up here in Northern New York it’s hard to get noticed,” said Leonard, who helped the Bengals to a 9-7 record and playoff berth last season. “Myself, my brother Nate and Trevor Scott of Potsdam are among a very small group of players from the area who made it to Division I.

“Trevor and I both made it to the NFL and if my brother didn’t get hurt, he would have made it, too. So there is definitely talent up here and I want my camp to help players be the best they can be.”

Leonard is prominent in the daily camp sessions, working the with the coaching staff to teach fundamental football skills with noncontact play. The camp will once again feature coaches from top-level high school programs and college coaches.

The camp, for young players entering first through 12th grades, offers both overnight and day camp options at SUNY Potsdam and daily sessions run from 8:30 am to 3 p.m. The cost of the camp is $245 for the day camp and $475 for the overnight camp.

Information and registration forms can be found at www.leonardcamps.com or by calling (732) 597-3126. Email inquiries can be sent to info@leonardcamps.com.

For the second year, the camp will also offer a Youth Coaching Clinic for youth football coaches. This year’s clinic will be held on Saturday, June 30 from 11:15 a.m.-5:45 p.m. Participating coaches will have the opportunity to interact with the Brian Leonard Football Camp coaches. The cost for the program is $50 and the contact information is the same as above.

“We added the coaching clinic last year and it was a big success. We are really looking forward to doing it again,” he said.

Leonard, meanwhile, is looking forward to the 2012 season with great anticipation.

“The team plans to use me as a third-down running back and on special teams again,” he said.

“I am 100 percent healthy and my job is to impress our offensive coordinator to get me the ball more. I think we have a good group of running backs. Cedric Benson is no longer with the Bengals but BenJarvus Green-Ellis came over from the Patriots.”

Leonard also believes that the Bengals addressed their needs in the player draft, especially at wide receiver where they chose Mohamed Sanu of Rutgers.

“I may be a little prejudiced but I think our next big wide receiver could be Mohamed Sanu, he is a very good,” he said.

Leonard said that Sanu and the other Bengal receivers will benefit from the skills and leadership of second year quarterback Andy Dalton, who impressed everyone at the voluntary OTAs (Organized Team Activities) with his increased size, strength and arm strength through offseason training.

“The key for a quarterback is confidence and Andy Dalton is extremely confident,” he said. “We all believe in him, and we believe that we are going to have a great year.”

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