They wear helmets, pads on shoulders, elbows and knees and you can barely see their faces… but is putting face masks on NFL players really the solution to bringing back players in time for the belated start of the 2020 NFL season?
One of the biggest problems with wearing face masks to combat Coronavirus in everyday society is that the inconvenience is reportedly not balanced up by a huge level of protection offered. Infected water droplets can still breach some masks, especially if they are permanently fixed to the individual’s face. The protection face masks offer, however, is for those who could be infected by the person wearing the mask itself.
All of which brings us to the issue of wearing protective face masks in American Football. The NFL is determined to return after a positive NFL Draft taking place virtually just a few weeks ago.
The opening match of the season on Thursday, September 10th should feature The Houston Texans heading to the Kansas City Chiefs at 5.20pm PDT, with the Chiefs big favourites at 2/9 against the Texans (7/2). But will it go ahead as planned?
The NFL are working with an equipment company called Oakley to design and produce a face mask that includes surgical-level protection for those wearing it – or as we explained might be more useful – facing it.
NFL Players Association Medical Director Thom Mayer told the Adam Schefter Podcast that innovating the design had been quite the challenge.
“Back in early March, I had suggested that we should consider novel and emerging ways to handle the helmets and the facemasks and the spread of the virus,” said Mayer. “The bioengineers that we use and that the league uses, Oakley, does all the face visors for the league under contract – these guys got the bit between their teeth.”
Encouraging news for all NFL fans on one hand, with the full NFL fixture schedule recently released.
While the NFL holds its breath through each stage, the fact that the league has just under four months until the season kicks off, with no prior season to finish, is a huge advantage. It must feel very difficult for sports such as the NBA or Major League Baseball to get going under anything like the same steam.
Mayer describes the chief concerns of many when it comes to face masks in the podcast interview.
“They’re looking at every issue you can imagine, including when it fogs up. What do we do with that? These guys are used to dealing with this stuff.”
In last week’s memo, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell described how NFL teams can re-open training facilities as of this Tuesday – but only if they stick to strict new guidelines set out to protect players and staff from the Coronavirus.
All teams will only be allowed to have up to and no more than 50% of their staff at their facilities, with a strict staff cap at 75 people.
This may only be the first stage, but Goodell has been explicit in pointing out that any teams who don’t adhere to these restrictions won’t be allowed to open.
With the NFL start staggered to September, it may be the sport that has the best chance of returning with less issues than those in Europe or the rest of the world.