The National Football League has made it mandatory for players to wear knee and thigh pads beginning with the upcoming season. Many players, especially at the wide receiver and defensive back positions, have elected not to wear the padding in previous years (such as Seattle’s Sidney Rice and Atlanta’s Asante Samuel, pictured).
Players could expect a hit to their wallets for not conforming to uniform policy stipulations such as shoe and sock color. However, the league plans to take the discipline a step further if players plan to willfully violate the new policy on padding. According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, the NFL will pull a player from the game if they are not complying with the rule changes.
“The more important deterrent, quite frankly, is that player will be removed from the game, and no player wants to miss time on game day,” NFL vice president of football operations Merton Hanks said. “The coaches certainly have voiced their opinion — that’s not something they’re willing to tolerate. Can you imagine having a player that you’ve designed a play for not in the game because he’s chosen not to adhere to the padding options that every other player has to adhere to?”
Many players have been critical of the new policy. Dallas Cowboys safety Barry Church said having to wear the pads was “going to stink.” San Diego Chargers linebacker Jarrett Johnson called it “a P.R. stunt” and Denver Broncos cornerback Quentin Jammer said it was “dumb.”
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Greg Little steadfastly declared he wouldn’t wear the pads.
Nominal fines haven’t deterred players from violating uniform rules in the past so the league has decided to take away something that matters a bit more – their playing time. Uniform inspectors will survey the players beginning in pregame activities and will notify the teams if any adjustments need to be made. If a player doesn’t comply with the requests they will be sidelined until they do. Fines are still possible as well for violations.
Ultimately Hanks doesn’t feel it will be a major issue for the players to adjust to the changes.
“We anticipate, quite frankly, minimal action in this regard and would love to be 100-percent,” Hanks said. “Wearing thigh and knee pads is no different than wearing a helmet and shoulder pads. We won’t allow you to play without a helmet on, either.”