They say that necessity is the mother of invention. The idea is that pressure forces creativity. When something needs to be done, and there are no known solutions, a new one must be found in order to accomplish that task.
And so the novel coronavirus gave birth to a new facemask for the NFL—which is admittedly already subject to some controversy, as the NFL and the NFLPA are disputing as to whether or not it can or should be mandatory. But either way, it’s here, and assuming that football is played, we should be seeing players wearing it, one way or the other.
Actually, what Oakley came up with was not a face mask but rather a shield, which was the favored design by players who provided their thoughts on the process. The germ of the idea of creating some sort of player-worn protective apparatus was actually from the NFLPA’s head medical advisor.
“The player feedback was integral in coming up with this design”, said the head of the league’s Engineering Committee, Dr. Jeff Crandall. “They (Oakley) would start with this design and say: ‘do you like this one better or this one? How’s your field of view on this one?’”.
The problem is, for the most part, players haven’t gotten the chance to actually put on this device and use it in a true workplace setting. They are concerned about it possibly restricting their breathing while performing high-energy tasks—such as playing football—and without that information, it’s impossible for the majority who have had no experience with this device to commit to making it mandatory.
“At the end, they did have feedback from players”, Crandall added. “This was their choice for the players they’ve evaluated so far. I think each player is going to have an evaluation for themselves in terms of exactly how they favor one concept versus another”.
The helmets will also include a visor, of course, to cover the bulk of the face, and it was noted that over 700 players last season were already wearing visors. The design of the mouth shield is such that it tries to restrict the view as little as possible, while also promoting breathing.
Dr. Alan Sills, also with the NFLPA, said that “we often say physical distance and football don’t go together, pretty impossible to keep 6 feet apart on the field, so that causes you to look for other innovations which could possibly be a flag bearer, and we think this falls into that category”.
Sills added that they are “actively working with players” to look at prototypes, with the hope of having them rolling out by the time training camps open. But there are still so many other issues that must be decided by then as well.