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Super Bowl players, coaches defend football after President Obama’s comments

San Francisco 49ers linebacker AldSmith talks with reporters during news conference Monday Jan. 28 2013 New Orleans. The 49ers are

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith talks with reporters during a news conference on Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, in New Orleans. The 49ers are scheduled to play the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game on Feb. 3. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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Updated: January 29, 2013 8:24PM



NEW ORLEANS — If he had a son, President Barack Obama would hesitate before allowing him to play football because of its violence and the concerns about concussions.

But there was plenty of disagreement before Super Bowl XLVII.

“I put it this way,” Ravens center Matt Birk said Monday. “I have three sons. Once they get to a certain age, if they want to play football, I’ll let them.”

Obama’s strong comments only drew more attention to a heated subject, especially with more than 4,000 former NFL players suing the league because of concussions.

Many preferred to look at the positive aspects of football. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said there’s a sense of pride that comes with playing and saying you’re a football player.

“It’s challenging,’’ Harbaugh said. ‘‘It’s tough. It’s hard. There’s no game like football. It’s the type of sport that brings out the best in you and really shows you who you are.”

Birk, a 15-year veteran, called football dangerous but said the league, coaches and players have a better understanding of the effects of head injuries.

“I think the culture has changed for the better the last few years as far as concussions are concerned,” Birk said. “The attitude is that it’s not smart to play with a concussion. You’re not doing yourself or your team any favors by trying to play through a concussion because you can’t.”

Aldon Smith, the 49ers’ star linebacker, said players recognize the sacrifices.

“We all signed up for it,” Smith said. “It’s not like we signed up and thought we were going to play tennis.”

Coach Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers took a lighthearted approach.

“Well, I have a 4-month-old — almost 5-month-old — son, Jack Harbaugh, and if President Obama feels that way, then there will be a little bit less competition for Jack Harbaugh when he gets old,” he said. “He is a really big kid. He has an enormous head. . . . And as soon as he grows into that head, he is going to be something. It’s early, but expectations are high for young Jack.”

Back in Chicago

Ex-Bears safety Chris Harris was named a defensive quality-control coach by the team. Harris, 30, played eight seasons in the NFL, including four for the Bears. He recently announced his retirement on Twitter.

The Bears also named Dwayne Stukes assistant special-teams coach and Sean Desai defensive quality-control coach. Stukes was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ special-teams coordinator in 2011. Desai spent last year as the running backs/special-teams coach at Boston College.

The Bears also are expected to name Tim Tibesar, Purdue’s defensive coordinator, their linebackers coach.

Tibesar was a defensive coordinator for coach Marc Trestman with the Montreal Alouettes.

Another candidate for a position with the Bears is Carson Walch, the Alouettes’ receivers coach.



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