NFL Players Will Now Be Allowed to Wear Protective ‘Guardian Caps’ in Games

The caps were previously limited to practice use only.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL players will be allowed to wear the protective Guardian Cap over their helmet in games this season if they want to, league officials said during a recent webinar. NFL chief administrative officer Dawn Aponte said during the panel that players will have the “option” to wear the padded helmet cover “if he so chooses.”

“So we might actually see a Guardian Cap on a player in a game this year,” NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills added. “That’s possible. Great. Big change coming up.”

The panel took place on April 9 and the league posted a recording of the discussion on its website on April 23. Pro Football Talk was the first to note the discussion about the potential use of Guardian Caps in games.

The NFL first mandated the use of Guardian Caps in early training camp practices in 2022 and expanded the requirement last year to include regular season practices. All players except for quarterbacks, kickers and punters are required to wear the device over their helmets during contact practices.

The league told Pro Football Talk before last season that players would not be allowed to wear the Guardian Cap during games.

NFL research shows that the Guardian Cap reduces the severity of hits to the head by as much as 20%. But some players have also complained about them. J.J. Watt said during training camp in 2022 when players were first required to wear them that he felt “like a bobblehead. Like you’re gonna fall over” with the extra cushioning on his head.

Dan Gartland


Dan Gartland is the writer and editor of Sports Illustrated’s flagship daily newsletter, SI:AM, covering everything an educated sports fan needs to know. Previously published on Deadspin and Slate, Dan also is a former Sports Jeopardy! champion (Season 1, Episode 5).