With Guardian Caps mandatory for the first time in training camp practices, photos and videos of players wearing the foam helmet coverings are proliferating. As explained on Thursday, they’re mandatory for offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, and tight ends at all practices through the second preseason game.
Inevitably, some players aren’t happy with the change.
Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt didn’t necessarily complain about it. But he did describe the “helmet for your helmet” as a “beehive on my head.”
Seahawks tight end Noah Fant‘s comments were far closer to an official complaint.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I dislike them a lot,” Fant told reporters on Thursday. “I know they’re NFL mandated, so I’m not going to say too much. I’m not a fan of them, but some other people may be. I understand why, it’s just kind of bulky and I can see the little straps on my facemask and stuff which bothers me a little bit, but we’re going with it.”
He acknowledged that the change isn’t major, but that it’s still a change.
“It’s not heavy, it’s foam honestly, so it doesn’t really make too much of a difference of weight, but it’s there, that’s the only way to describe it,” Fant said. “It’s just one of those things that’s a little bit of an inconvenience but we’re going to roll with it. I know in the game I won’t have to wear it, so we’ll make it work.”
Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett gushed about the Guardian Caps on Wednesday, despite acknowledging that “they are not necessarily the best fashion statement.” However, Hackett mentioned a hidden benefit for the foam helmet coverings beyond the potential reduction in head injuries for the players who are far more likely to have helmet-to-helmet contact during practices.
“I think it gives a little bit more protection to the quarterback if, all of a sudden, his hand comes forward, and it’s a little bit softer than a helmet,” Hackett said.
That’s a great point. Despite quarterbacks being insulated from getting hit during practice, the follow through when throwing a pass sometimes results a hand striking a helmet. Through the first two preseason games, that hand won’t hit something quite as solid, at least not during practice.
That makes it an even better device for promoting player safety, even if it is unsightly. If it weren’t, it probably would be required for preseason games — and maybe even for the games that count.