For decades, NFL players wore thigh and knee pads only if they wanted to — and many players didn’t want to, saying that the pads slowed them down. But in 2013, the league made thigh and knee pads mandatory.
As the 2015 season begins, the league is reminding players of that requirement.
“NFL Football Operations issued a reminder to general managers, head coaches and equipment managers that all players must be in compliance with the league rule on mandatory thigh and knee padding. The league emphasizes this rule every season as part of its efforts to protect players from unnecessary risk and ensure that the game is presented in a professional manner consistent with NFL standards,” the league noted on its Operations website.
At the time the rule was passed, some players vowed to break the rule, saying they wouldn’t allow the officials to tell them what to wear. But that was an idle threat for the simple reason that the officials have the authority to kick a player out of the game if he refuses to wear pads. So far, that hasn’t happened, and the NFL’s reminder is designed to ensure that thigh and knee pads remain a non-issue.