Could Guardian Caps be used in games?


When it comes to reducing concussions, the NFL has found something that possibly is working too well.

Last year, the Guardian Caps became a common sight in the early stages of training camp. Offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, and tight ends were required to wear them at practice through the second week of the preseason. This year, they are also mandatory for running backs, and they’ll be used for the entirety of the preseason and during regular-season practices.

They have been optional for other players (like receivers), and some (like Steelers receiver George Pickens) have opted to wear them.

The reason for expanded use of the caps is simple. The caps work. Last year, concussions dropped by 52 percent during the time they were used, in comparison to the previous three-year average.

So here’s the question. Should they be used during games?

The NFL hasn’t ruled it out, and for good reason. If the league is serious about safety, the external padding should be embraced. The obvious problem is that it will potentially diminish the presentation of the game, given that the helmet colors and designs are such an integral part of the NFL. Many fans won’t like watching players play in Stay-Puft marshmallow helmets, even if they help reduce the chances of what’s inside them turning to mush.

It creates a real dilemma for the league. If safety is paramount, how the caps look shouldn’t matter.

And what if one or more players ask to wear them during games? Would the NFL deny a player something that would make him feel safer while playing?

If the league chooses not to embrace Guardian Caps during games, the stated reason will be interesting. Will there be a justification related to competitive balance or performance of the caps in full-speed football settings, or will the league simply admit that they would take away from the visual quality of a very visual sport?

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