NFL training camps have a new and controversial piece of equipment. The league is requiring certain position groups from all 32 teams to wear 'Guardian Caps' for the first 14 training camp practices. The caps are padded shells placed over the players’ helmets to help curb head injuries as teams ramp up their activity in preparation for the 2022 season.
As offensive and defensive linemen, linebackers and tight ends have donned the caps in practices, questions have stemmed from wearing a protective device that won’t be worn during actual games. Some resistance to the change around the league stems from concerns that the protective padding is causing players to use their helmets more than usual, which could cause more problems when the caps are removed.
One of the league's most respected defensive ends, J.J. Watt, voiced his criticism.
“I mean, I think you know what I think of the Guardian Caps we’re wearing,” Watt said at Arizona Cardinals camp. “You feel like a bobblehead. Like you’re gonna fall over. I’ll probably get fined for this.”
According to NFL statistics, the intent is to minimize the high number of concussions that are sustained early on in training camp. The protective caps reduce the severity of impact if one player is wearing them by 10 percent and by 20 percent if two players are wearing them.
Seahawks tight end Noah Fant has a strong opinion on the caps.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I dislike them a lot,” Fant said. “I know they’re NFL mandated, so I’m not going to say too much. I’m not a fan of them, but some other people may be. I understand why, it’s just kind of bulky and I can see the little straps on my facemask and stuff which bothers me a little bit, but we’re going with it...”
"I know in the game I won’t have to wear it, so we’ll make it work.”
While players across the league grow accustomed to the caps, everyone can agree that taking steps to reduce concussions is important. Players will be encouraged but not required to wear the caps after the second preseason game.
Seahawks coach Pete Carrol was asked if Seattle would choose to wear them beyond the mandated time.
"We're going to take in all the information and follow the science there," Carroll said.
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