In an effort to combat COVID-19, the NFL unveiled a potential new feature for the 2020 season.
The Oakley Mouth Shield is still a work in progress, but prototypes are expected to be distributed to all 32 teams over the next week for tests.
The NFL and NFL Players Association worked in collaboration to develop the shield with Oakley. The shields are considered a better alternative than wearing a mask while playing.
Safety protocols for the season are still being negotiated between the NFL and NFLPA. The shields are not yet mandatory, but the NFL’s medical experts are strongly recommending them.
“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 biggest concerns with the shields are visibility and breathability. NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer has been encouraged by the early feedback from players, but fears what could come when more players try them out.
“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,” Mayer said. “I think it will be when we [have more players testing them].”
In an interview with Pro Football Talk, Watt reminisced on a bad memory wearing a visor. He even threatened to sit out the season if the shields become mandatory.
“My second year in the league I thought it’d be cool, I put a visor on my helmet,” Watt told PFT last week. “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.”
With training camp set to begin at the end of July, the NFL clearly still has details to iron out.