It appears NFL players will be sporting an entirely different look in 2020.
On Monday, the league unveiled the Oakley Mouth Shield, which is designed to help players combat from contracting the dreaded coronavirus.
Via Tim McManus of ESPN:
“…a product designed by doctors and engineers from the NFL and NFL Players Association to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus on the field of play — is expected to be distributed to all 32 teams over the next week, when it will receive a test drive on a much larger scale than it has gotten to date.
Safety protocol negotiations are ongoing between the league and players. Currently, there is no mandate to wear a face shield, but the NFL’s medical experts are advocating for the use of the protective equipment.”
“That’s certainly what we’re going to encourage,” said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer. “And we hope that we’re going to land on a product design that’s something that everyone would want to wear, because they’ll see the value and want that additional protection without any detriment to performance.”
The two biggest concerns as of right now is visibility and breathe-ability, according to NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer.
“We’ve only had it on a few players — we have 2,500 players in the league — but I was surprised that … claustrophobia has not been an issue yet,” he said. “I think it will be when we [have more players testing them].”
Houston Texans star defensive lineman J.J. Watt already stated last week that he is against wearing a face shield and even threatened to sit out the 2020 season.
“My second year in the league I thought it’d be cool, I put a visor on my helmet,” Watt told ProFootballTalk. “I was like, ‘It looks so cool, I wanna put a visor on.’ I had it on for about three periods of practice and I said, ‘Take this sucker off — I’m gonna die out here.’ … So now you’re gonna put something around my mouth? You can keep that. If that comes into play, I don’t think you’re gonna see me on the field.”
The NFL and NFLPA are hoping the different safety measures they are taking, including the introduction of the Mouth Shield, will lead to a safer environment.
“Just like everything we do, whether we’re talking about better cleats or better performing helmets, it’s all about something that’s safer and yet also protects and in many cases enhances performance,” Sills said. “That’s the same mantra and the same sort of approach that we’re taking here. I’m really pleased with how the work is going along. We’re not at a finished product yet. Like most things in health safety, there’s really no finish line here. So we’re hoping to continue to innovate and improve as we go along. But we’re excited about where we are and excited about the potential role this may play in risk mitigation on the field.”