Despite testing and social distancing and anything else done before or after games, the playing of football will entail multiple men in close proximity for three hours at a time. And so the league wants to try to keep them safe when on the field.
One way to do that comes from a device developed by Oakley and distributed to the NFL’s 32 teams. Via Tim McManus of ESPN.com, the Oakley Mouth Shield was designed by doctors and engineers from the NFL and NFL Players Association, in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The NFLPA opposes mandatory use of a face shield. Last week, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said on the #PFTPM podcast that, after experimenting briefly with a visor in 2012, he will not wear a shield that covers his mouth.
“My second year in the league I thought it’d be cool, I put a visor on my helmet,” Watt said. “I was like, ‘It looks so cool, I wanna put a visor on.’ I had it on for about three periods of practice and I said, ‘Take this sucker off I’m gonna die out here.’ . . . So now you’re gonna put something around my mouth? You can keep that. If that comes into play, I don’t think you’re gonna see me on the field.”
The mouth shield has airways and openings, but it supposedly prevents the direct transmission of droplets that may carry the virus.
“We’ve only had it on a few players — we have 2,500 players in the league — but I was surprised that . . . claustrophobia has not been an issue yet,” NFLPA medical director Thom Mayer told McManus. “I think it will be when we [have more players testing them].”
The first step will be for the league and the union to reach agreement on whether and to what extent the mouth shield will be mandatory. If the NFL chooses to make it mandatory over the NFLPA’s objection, the NFLPA would have to accept it in the same way that the NFLPA accepts the fact that only certain helmets can be used, only certain face masks can be used, knee pads must be worn, etc.