NFL cracks down on non-standard facemasks

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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.

84 responses to “NFL cracks down on non-standard facemasks

  1. Backwards thinking. If you don’t want players to lower their heads, take off the helmets. If they are going to wear helmets the more face protection the better.

  2. Flawed logic. To the extent that the facemask encourages anyone to lead with the head, wouldn’t the no helmets be safer by the same standard?

  3. now that this will help them be safer they can make more money for the owners by playing more games. those heavy face masks were going to suck for games 17 and 18 plus expanded playoffs so mediocre teams like the Jets can get in every few years

  4. 1) Enforce the rules already on the books against spearing.

    2) Go back to leather helmets.

    3) Train young players the fundamentals.
    There are too many players going to a 2 year junior college, one year at a real program, then jumping to the NFL.

  5. Typical NFL coming up with bogus reason to control players. What is standard issue vs. non standard issue? The NFL decides this? These faceguards are made and offered by the companies that make and sell faceguards!! Some companies make these faceguards in Titanium which makes them lighter than the “standard issue” faceguards that are out there now. How about making those mandatory if they are safer? I am always surprised how little the NFL actually knows about football and what they try to fool the general public with. It’s all about protecting their image.

  6. Coming from an Aussie who loves the NFL, the pads and helmets are what sets your “rugby” style game apart from rugby union and rugby league. I’m not sure there’s an actual need for padding and helmets (happy to be told otherwise) but they add a gladitorial tone to the game. I think there’s some truth to the “helmet gives a false sense of protection” and may be why some players lead with the head. In the rugby codes there’s definitely some concussion injuries but they don’t seem as serious or as frequent as the NFL.
    I’m not a fan of Goddell messing around with the rules but I’m OK with this one.

  7. By the NFL’s logic, the safest thing for the players would be to remove the facemasks outright. Why not remove all padding and the helmet too. That way players won’t feel “empowered” and accidentally hurt themselves at all.

  8. Yes! Great job NFL!

    Some of these new facemasks are just stupid and to draw attention; safety plays no roll at all.

  9. The problem with concussions is a result of making helmets better and better…making players feel invincible. In reality, no helmet smaller than a beach ball will drastically reduce concussions.

    Take away the helmets, or go back to a slab of leather on their head…and concussions will go away. The better you make helmets…it diminishes the need to use proper tackling techniques.

  10. Way to go NFL – way to have your priorities in order. The NFL prioritizes uniformity of face masks — way to lame it up.

    I remember when the NFL outlawed John Randle’s harmless face paint — and it is just so weak.

    Much of the game is performance, but another powerful component is individuality if it doesn’t compromise team. The reason Billy White Shoes Johnson’s dance resonated with Joe Football Fan was because it was respectfully flamboyant.

    Why outlaw the harmless stuff?

    Stick to banning PEDs and keeping convicted criminals off the field.

  11. “…they make players feel empowered to lead with their heads…”
    Following this logic, helmets should be banned completely.

  12. Being someone who moved from American Football to Rugby Union, I can definitely state that pads are necessary once you as a player have naturalized your tackling technique. Moving back to Rugby, I struggled to not push my entire body weight through shoulder tackles, and the deep bone bruises certainly gave my body some interesting color combinations.

    Until the NFL can categorically prove that more bars/weight on the facemask increases the likelihood of a player lowering their head, then they should leave this well alone – or give the players a wider – League approved – selection of facemasks to chose from.

  13. Has the NFL done any testing? Any results to back up their claims?

    When NFL players and trainers take it upon themselves to use the best equipment available, the NFL comes up with some BS reason to overrule safer equipment.

    No testing..just an opinion to protect the companies that provide the facemasks for NFL helmets.

    For the NFL, it’s not about safety…it’s about protecting the profit margin of the NFL and those companies who make a handsome profit supplying the NFL with less than the best equipment available.

    Shame of the NFL…

  14. I think its because Tuck is now a RAIDER. Also K.Mack wears the same face mask, the NFL doesn’t like that.

    But seriously, How do they know how it makes the players “feel empowered”? So dumb.

  15. Sorry Khalil Mack…welcome to the Raiders way of getting smacked up by the league. Make it a “league wide” rule. Justin Tuck and Khalil Mack (in college), and the guy in the picture for the giants are really the only ones that wear those big face masks as far as I know.

  16. I think Khalil Mack wore the bird cage mask. I’d guess he can’t anymore but haven’t seen his facemask as a rookie. I’d have to guess that it’s non-standard. Pretty stupid rules coming down IMO.

  17. Standard issue face masks?

    What the heck in Matthew Stafford wearing? Looks like a special needs grill.

    Peyton too for that matter.

  18. 1. Let me think… the narrower bars protect the player from getting his eyes poked by another team’s player’s fingers.

    2. Shouldn’t this be negotiated with the union?

  19. The NFL is a Kill joy period. Stifling player celebrations, they should see the WC. Sports is an emotional game and to put a kibosh on that. On the not of player safety its all talk.

  20. Leather helmets to stop concussions and WWII flying ace goggles for guys with history of eye injuries.

  21. It’s because Riddell is the official helmet sponsor and the face masks are made by other companies. Plain and simple and the only reason.

  22. I’m sure it’s about money as everything is with the NFL. I’m sure they aren’t approved by the NFL thus they can’t make money off of it.

    Their explanations are such BS. They have no logic whatsoever to their retorts.

  23. Players who need extra bars in their face mask are just pansies. I wouldn’t want a coward like that on my team!

  24. I’m definitely in the minority but I don’t even notice what a guys facemask looks like. If this was never brought up,I wouldn’t have given it any thought. But the NFL should do a CYA. In 20 years some dude is going to sue for slobber-mouth because the NFL didn’t tell him to take off his non-approved customized mask. It doesn’t take away from individuality (there’s a reason it’s called a uniform) and it doesn’t take the fun out of anything…unless the mask shoots bottle rockets out after a sack,but I haven’t seen that yet. We all have rules in employment,stop being so angry.

  25. I’m sure that these face masks are offensive to some fringe minority group of warrior a somewhere and therefore should be BANISHED FOREVER….!!!

  26. I think those masks are stupid looking but so is the NFL reason for banning them. I could easily see fingers getting stuck in those little holes, which probably would of been a better excuse for the NFL to ban them.

  27. No problem with this. It’s part of the uniform.

    If you need your individuality that bad, go be a street performer. No restrictions there.


  29. just call all the offensive face masking and you will be able to remove those bars no problem.

  30. I agree with many posts. The reasons submitted by the league do not make any sense at all. Historically facemasks have been used as a weapon for many years mostly as a defensive weapon. When the guards were first introduced, if an opposing player tried to gouge your eye, the offended player would jerk his head and try to break a finger. The league is offering a supposition i.e, not based on fact. Chris Canty has worn this gear for several years while playing for the Giants and Ravens. Has there been any injuries caused by this gear? I seriously doubt it. This is strictly a money decision because someone has a patent design that offends a helmet maker.

  31. The NFL,,ruining the game at every turn. Leading with the head? Head is attached between the shoulders, evenly in some cases. Shoulder makes the tackle,,,but the head goes along for the ride and makes contact. Thats why the players wear helmets, to prevent a lost eye, or ripped off nose, knocked out teeth, little things like that. Then here comes the NFL savior, Rodger Goodell, who has never played one (1) down of football at any level, wants to band tackling with the head. If only the players could remove their heads before each game.

  32. Not to give the league too much credit, but there is a good reason to disallow non-standard facemasks. Today’s helmets are not piecemeal products. They are integrated systems. The facemasks are designed to flex in conjunction with the hinge points on the helmet to slow acceleration at the point of contact. When you swap out the mask for something heavier or with more bars closer together you create a much more rigid helmet that doesn’t flex properly, mitigating the benefit of the design. A more rigid helmet is more dangerous for the wearer, and far mor dangerous for another player should the wearer hit them in their helmet with it.

  33. This isn’t about safety, or empowerment, its about facemasks as cosmetic art. Its about attempting to make cooler and more intimidating custom facemasks. The NFL is saying no to the nuclear facemask race. Its another flavor of non-league approved gear customization.

    Given that the players in the 60’s and 70’s were delivering more vicious hits with their heads, with facemasks that look positively primitive by current standards, the empowerment argument is a load of propaganda.

  34. idiots, taking away the face mask would lead to more ‘spearing’.

    Anyone that spews out the nonsense of removing helmets completely, , i suggest you research concussion levels in rugby.

    not too far off from where we are now, but the players that play rugby aren’t a bunch of sissy whiners.

    if you run head first into things for a living, you are going to have brain troubles. That’s why you get paid more than 99% of the country.

  35. Good. Those new ones look ridiculous, and players don’t need every square inch of their face covered anyway. Plenty of Hall of Fame linemen did just fine with the good old three bar “cage” masks.

  36. if you get hurt you get hurt.They know what thier signing up for.get insurance ,sure make enough to afford it…leave the helmet alone..

  37. Funny how the NCAA makes hockey players wear full cages because it’s SAFER!

  38. I hate this rule… If the equipment does what it is suppose to do why should it matter… Its fun and brings some excitement…But who am I but a FAN…Indeed…

  39. We don’t have no Facts;

    We don’t need no Facts;

    We don’t have to show you no Stinking Facts!

  40. Follow the money. Obviously some face mask manufacturer has\will pay the NFL a lot of money to have their face mask being used exclusively by the players.

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