The NFL plans to cut back on the size of some players’ facemasks.
NFL Executive V.P. of Football Operations Troy Vincent has circulated a memo explaining that facemasks characterized by “more bars, smaller spaces between the bars, and a generally larger coverage area” are now illegal, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. The NFL sent a similar message last year, but apparently this year the league will be even more strict about which kinds of facemasks it allows, and more restrictive about giving players medical exemptions if, for instance, they’ve had a history of eye injuries and want a bigger facemask to protect themselves from getting poked.
On first blush, that might sound like it doesn’t make much sense: Player safety is supposed to be the NFL’s top priority, and if a player thinks a facemask with more bars will keep him safer from getting poked in the eye, isn’t that a good thing?
But the NFL’s response has been that those non-standard facemasks aren’t as safe because they make players feel empowered to lead with their heads, and there are also concerns that more weight at the front of the helmet makes players more likely to lower their heads.
And so players who want bigger facemasks are out of luck. The standard-issue facemasks are the only facemasks allowed in the NFL.