OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Some of the Ravens players look sort of silly wearing the mandated Guardian Cap helmets in practice.
However, they are embracing the science behind it even if they are a bit uncomfortable.
“Supposedly, the research shows it helps the linemen with their heads – it takes some force off our brains a little bit," right guard Kevin Zeitler said. "It’s a little warm and heavy right now, but if it’s for our future health, it’s totally worth it.”
For the first time in training camp, players from all 32 NFL teams are wearing a padded shell affixed to the outside of their helmets, called a Guardian Cap.
In all 2022 preseason practices up until the second preseason game, all offensive linemen, defensive linemen, tight ends, and linebackers are required to wear the Guardian Cap, providing additional impact protection during the period when the league sees the greatest concentration of helmet impacts.
“That’s a league mandate," coach John Harbaugh said. "The league mandates that the first two weeks of training camp for those positions – offensive line, the running backs, tight ends, defensive line, outside ‘backers and inside ‘backers.”
When worn, the Guardian Cap results in at least a 10% reduction in the severity of impact if one player is wearing it, and at least a 20% reduction in impact if two players are wearing them, according to the NFL.
In March 2022, NFL clubs voted on and passed a resolution on this requirement. That vote followed consideration and recommendations by the Competition Committee and the Owners' Health and Safety Advisory Committee, as well as consultation with head coaches around the League.
The four Head Coaches on the NFL Competition Committee – Coaches Frank Reich, Ron Rivera, Mike Tomlin, and Mike Vrabel – recommended players wear Guardian Caps this preseason.
The model being worn at NFL training camps is not the same model seen on college and high school football fields.
The NFL and NFLPA, through their biomechanical engineering experts, worked collaboratively with the Guardian Cap manufacturer to test and evolve the design of a Cap that specifically withstands impacts NFL players experience on the field–work made possible because of the vast amount of data collected and analyzed from the NFL playing field that helps the league to understand the biomechanics of head injury and simulate that in a laboratory environment.
The league will collect and analyze data from preseason practice to understand how Guardian Caps performed, and to improve future health and safety efforts.