August 11, 2023
The NFL required all linemen, linebackers and tight ends to wear Guardian Caps, the soft-shell helmet covers, for part of training camp in 2022. This year, the safety measures have expanded to include running backs through all of preseason and regular-season contact practices. And it’s possible the Caps could someday be worn in games, according to NFL executive Jeff Miller.
“I think the day could come,” Miller, who oversees NFL player health and safety, told Good Morning Football Thursday. “But at the same time, a lot of the helmets are also making advances, too, and so some of the protective benefits you get from the Guardian Cap hopefully will be seen in helmets in the next year or two.”
Unlike helmets, whose exterior is polycarbonate — a high-strength plastic — the Guardian Caps are padded, soft-shell layers designed to reduce impact to the hard shell. The NFL found that players wearing the Caps in 2022 practices sustained both concussions and general impact at a significantly reduced rate.
League executives received some “negative feedback around the fit, or maybe (they) slipped a little bit,” Miller explained, but the NFL has since updated its Guardian Cap model and is seeking additional data in 2023. Dozens of coaches and players, meanwhile, have supported the implementation of the Caps, acknowledging the safety benefits outweigh the unusualness of the Caps’ initial fit or appearance.
The NFL is also aiming to one day “get to the place where players … wear helmets specific to their position,” Miller said. Some players already wear protective gear that is custom designed, and at least 10 quarterbacks have agreed to try newly designed VICIS helmets that have extra padding in the back. But it’s just the first step in a potential overhaul of helmet customization.
“A corner sees the world very differently from the quarterback,” Miller said. “He experiences different sorts of impacts, different magnitudes. And we’ve been able to track that, analyze those, create laboratory tests. … And as a result, you can ‘tune’ helmets to those sorts of impacts. … We also see a lot of position-specific helmets for linemen, because they get hit a lot towards the front.”