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Saints coach Sean Payton offers strong endorsement of youth football

Sean Payton offered a strong endorsement of youth football Tuesday despite growing safety concerns around the sport.

The New Orleans Saints coach, whose son, Connor, is a high school junior in the Dallas area, was asked by The MMQB's Peter King why a "mother in Dubuque, Iowa" should allow her son to play football.

"A mother in Dubuque, Iowa, and a father in New Orleans and Dallas want their sons to play football because of the lessons," Payton said during his annual media session at the NFL meetings in Orlando. "So many life lessons. It's a safe sport. It teaches leadership. It teaches grit and overcoming adversity."

Payton brought up the example of players like his son maybe losing out on a starting job, then continuing to practice and fight.

"And then you get those opportunities to have success and you realize it's just like life," Payton said. "So I think it brings so much to the character and the building of a character of an individual. And it might be flag football until a certain age. ... But it's the greatest sport for our kids, and we can and are making it safe. And I think the biggest thing is the information, not the misinformation. And I think the rewards far outweigh the negative."

Payton said Connor played tackle football at a young age because he felt good about his coaches at the time.

But another high-profile Saint -- quarterback Drew Brees -- is one of the nation's leading advocates for children playing flag football, as he has made it a mission to try to save the sport for future generations.

Brees and longtime business partner Chris Stuart started the coed Football 'N' America youth flag football league last year, and they have said they hope it can become a nationwide league.