As players around the NFL return to training camp to prepare for the upcoming season, there is one major change they will have to adjust to.
Guardian Caps are protective, soft shells with an outer layer of padding that fit on top of helmets in order to help prevent concussions. The caps have to be worn by all offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers and tight ends throughout camp.
The league said in a statement that the caps reduce the force from head contact by 10 percent if one player wears it and 20 percent if both players involved in the collision wear it.
As the league tries to minimize the amount of head injuries players sustain, players and coaches around the country are getting used to the new normal.
Some players, such as Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt, have been critical of the Guardian Caps and how they feel when practicing. New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said he feels like a two-year old running around due to the forward lean caused by the extra weight of the caps.
"There's a noticeable change that they're going to say is not noticeable," Jordan said. "I've got a lot of moves that involve shaking and shimmying with the head, so I'm going to look like a big ole bobblehead."
Jordan also said the caps are not physically limiting, just annoying. Tight end Adam Trautman said they don't limit vision, and you can't feel it until you try to take off your chinstrap. The former Dayton Flyer said besides it looking like a big mushroom, he is all for the use of the caps.
"Everyone knows how serious concussions are, especially when you're banging heads with people on every single play, up front especially," Trautman said. "I wish they were a little better ventilated, but yeah, I think it's a good idea for sure."
Tackle Ryan Ramczyk agreed with Trautman, saying it's not a big change and it's backed by research.
"I think it's a good thing," Ramczyk said. "We haven't had a ton of contact yet, so I haven't been able to really feel it out."
While the Saints only have the select positions wearing the caps, some teams have taken it a step further. For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers require all their players to wear the soft-shell padding.
"I will always act in your best interest, particularly as it pertains to your health and safety," Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin told his team. "I love football. My sons play football. I'm morally obligated to keep this group safe, and I promise you, you're going to get that commitment from me."
Indianapolis Colts Coach Frank Reich said the choice to wear the caps during training camp was a strategic move due to the amount of players and reps involved. The time frame, according to the league, is in order to limit concussions during a time where the NFL sees the greatest concentration of helmet impacts.
"The research just continues to show that the cumulative effects of hits over a long season, it matters," Reich said.
The NFL's chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, said the league is recording data throughout camp in a test to see the success of the caps and to continue improving safety measures.
"What we're really aiming to do here is to reduce that force that's transmitted through the helmet to the player's brain, which is ultimately going to result in a higher degree of safety for the player," Sills told NFL Network.
NFL clubs voted in March to use the Guardian Caps throughout training camp practices up until the second week of the preseason after "consideration and recommendations by the Competition Committee and the Owners' Health and Safety Advisory Committee, as well as consultation with head coaches around the League."
The New Orleans Saints took the field for practice during 2022 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Saturday, July 30