Giants’ Canty, Tuck in a race to protect the face

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Giants defensive end Justin Tuck drew some attention recently when he unveiled the facemask he plans to wear this season. But teammate Chris Canty says Tuck is just imitating his design.

Canty (pictured) said on ESPN’s NFL Live that Tuck’s famous facemask was inspired by Canty’s own design, and the two of them now have something of a friendly competition to see who can get the most protective facemask allowable.

“I developed this face mask with the visor,” Canty said. “Justin came to me last year and asked if he could wear the face mask. I told him, ‘Yeah, sure.’ But I think he wanted to develop something of his own. He did a pretty good job. No visor — you have to ask special permission to wear one of those — but he did a good job with it, and I think fans are having fun with it.”

For Canty, a protective facemask is an absolute necessity: A few months before he was drafted in 2005, he was hit in the face with a beer bottle, and broken glass got into his eye and detached his retina. Although surgery restored his vision to where he describes it as not perfect but “good enough,” doctors have told him that if he ever gets poked in the eye he could lose his sight.

Canty initially tried to play with a visor that covered his entire face, but he found it hard to breathe and decided instead to go with the smaller visor and a bigger facemask, with six horizontal bars and four vertical bars. That looked like one of the NFL’s most monstrous facemasks until Tuck came around with his mask, which has 12 diagonal bars and five horizontal bars.

It took Tuck some time to find the right fit for himself. He told the New York Times last year that he tried on Canty’s facemask and got claustrophobic.

Inside, I felt like I couldn’t get any oxygen,” Tuck said. “I don’t know how he breathes in there.”

This year, Tuck is going to find out.