The Vikings have taken a significant step toward making offseason practices safer. For some of their OTA sessions, they’ve swapped out their helmets for soft-padded caps.
Via Vikings.com, equipment manager Dennis Ryan said that coach Mike Zimmer raised the idea in order to reduce contact between helmets and unprotected body parts during OTA sessions, while still providing some covering for the cranium.
“It’s an effort to keep the players safer, taking the helmets off,” Ryan said. “Zim’ wants the players to have some type of protection if they’re out there running around at a pretty good speed. They’ve got a little bit of protection for their heads and are taking the contact out of the practice.”
The Vikings couldn’t get purple versions of the soft-padded hats. They opted for white over black, so that the soft helmets would retain less heat.
“When you see them, I think like a boxing headgear or going back to the old leather days of the Duluth Eskimos with no facemask and leather helmets,” Ryan said. “Just strap it up and go.”
For years, players have complained about the fact that helmets strike shoulders and arms and legs during 11-on-11 sessions that are supposed to not be full speed but that easily become intense and fast-paced.
“I think the OTA process is about us building the chemistry, being around each other,” running back Dalvin Cook said earlier this week. “It’s less of the physical part, so I think Coach Zim came to the conclusion of taking the helmets off and still protecting us. I think the helmets, they’re comfortable, they feel good, and I think when it comes to OTAs, it’s less of the physical. It’s about getting that timing down and starting to know each other, building that chemistry. I think you know, Coach Zim, he knows that as a coach, so I think it was smart of him.”
Minnesota’s shift to the soft helmets comes at a time when players and coaches are engaged in ongoing communications regarding ways to make offseason workouts safer while still giving teams an opportunity to prepare for the coming season. Players from other teams should be asking their coaches to make the same change.