The 32 NFL players who ended last season wearing helmet models not approved by the league and the NFL Players Association will have no such option this coming season. The grandfather clause allowing players to wear prohibited helmet models has expired, and all NFL players will be required to wear better-performing helmets in the 2019 season.
“The prohibited helmets will not be allowed in the locker room,” Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of health and safety initiatives, said Friday. “A player will not be allowed on the field [wearing such a helmet].”
Any team that knowingly allows a player to wear a prohibited helmet model would be subject to discipline by the league, Miller said during a conference call with reporters in which NFL and NFLPA safety officials announced the results of their latest round of joint safety-related laboratory testing of impacts on helmets.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady reportedly is among the players who must switch helmet models. Brady wore an approved helmet for part of last season but reportedly switched back to his previous Riddell VSR-4 helmet model that is on the list of prohibited helmets.
“You’ve seen something a certain way for a long period of time, so I like as much vision as possible with the peripheral vision,” Brady said last summer, according to Boston.com. “It’s all important — it all matters — so, yeah, just making sure it’s kind of similar to what the experience has always been.”
The NFL and NFLPA are in their fifth year of testing various helmet models to study how they “withstand impacts comparable to what a player would experience on the field,” said Jeff Crandall, the chairman of the league’s engineering committee.
The league and players’ union compile the results, rank the helmets and produce a poster in which helmet models are placed into three categories: green, yellow and red. The best-performing helmets are in the green category. The prohibited helmets are in red.
Injury data has supported the results of the testing, according to the safety officials.
“The impact tests in the laboratory correlate to the on-field experience,” said Kristy Arbogast, the NFLPA’s engineering consultant.
The NFL announced in January that the number of concussions suffered by players was down sharply last season. There were 214 concussions suffered by players during the 2018 preseason and regular season, according to the league’s injury data. That was down from 281 concussions in 2017, a decrease of 24 percent.
According to the league, 74 percent of players were wearing the better-performing helmet models in the green category by the end of last season. That was up from 41 percent at the beginning of the season.
“The education process was thorough and the players were listening,” Miller said.