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The NFL Has Introduced 'Guardian Caps' to Reduce Concussions, and Made Them Mandatory. But Only for Some Positions. And Only Through the 2nd Preseason Game.

I try, even in my advanced years, not to be That Guy. The older guy who objects to every rules change in sports as a sign of the pussification of America. I try my best not to take every effort to promote safety as a change to yearn for the times of my youth when men were men, and not the poncy little sissy boys they are now. It's my policy to never be the Grumpy Old Fan who bitches about how, back in my day, we knew every time you showed up for a game, someone or something could smash your organs into Jell-O and cut your limbs off and leave you bleeding out on the field until you were killed. And you'd be lying there going, "Boo hoo! Now I'm about to be good and dead, all to win a ballgame!" And that's the way we liked it! Floobity floo!"

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Because I'm nothing if not someone who appreciates history. It took about 2,000 years for us to go from guys killing each other with swords, to letting them put on some armor, to using jousting poles on horseback, to finally giving them boxing gloves instead. There was a good 100 year gap between the invention of the 100 mph slapshot and the goalie mask. It turns out Lou Gehrig contracted Lou Gehrig's disease as a side effect of Major League Baseball Disease. Whose symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and frequent unconsciousness from repeatedly getting your brains scrambled, since 1/8" of flannel doesn't protect your skull from fastballs. 

Remember the furious public backlash when the NHL put netting up behind the goals and MLB put it up between the backstop and the dugout? Even after a little girl was killed by a puck and a 79 year old grandma died from a line drive? Stephen King was indignant, since he then had to watch the Red Sox through a thin weave of nylon. Apparently not concerned with his own safety, since a foul ball couldn't do any more damage to his brain than the Himalayas of cocaine he did back in the '70s and 80s. Where he stood on people behind the plate having to watch the game through chainlink, or whether he thinks that should be removed too, he didn't say. 

The point being, that all sports have evolved toward greater safety since sports were invented. And every step of the way, people have bitched about it and claimed the game is now officially ruined for good. And yet, somehow, they endure. 

Which brings us back to the padded coverings that the NFL has put on the helmets of all offensive linemen, tight ends, and defensive front-7 players, starting with Day 1 of all camps. 

Source -They debuted in recent years as curiosities of the offseason program. Now, the Guardian Caps worn over helmets will be seen during practices throughout the first month of training camp and the preseason.

According to the NFL, the teams passed a resolution in March requiring the use of Guardian Caps through the second preseason game. …

“Preseason is the part of the season with the greatest concentration of helmet impacts,” the league explained in a statement to PFT. “Wearing Guardian Cap results in at least a 10 percent reduction in severity of impact if one player is wearing it, and at least a 20 percent reduction in impact if two players in a collision are wearing it."

Let's all agree that these things are not an aesthetic triumph. They'll take some getting used to. And until we do, I won't be able to stop seeing the sum suits in the "Beach Games" episode:

But then again, I'm sure people said the same things when football went from leather helmets to hard shells. Or when they added the single bar face mask. Then the full mask. We're all resistant to change to some extent. 

Let's just bear in mind that pro football was in a fight for its survival just a few years ago. Concussion was a best seller and a Will Smith movie that had the league so petrified they tried to squash it. Or at least have their beloved "broadcast partners" give it zero oxygen. Something needed to be done. And continues to. And let's not forget Junior Seau. I don't know if putting a down comforter on the helmets of some guys during some part of the offseason will prevent another generational talent from taking his own life. But I'm not going to bellyache about them trying it. Even though we live in a time where "follow the science" has become a punchline. Synonymous with bureaucratic incompetence and failed policies. 

I'll end with one final history lesson. In 1905, 18 men died playing college football. Now, imagine how few Americans were even going to college, much less playing this varsity sport. So big time football schools began dropping it. And there was a groundswell of support for banning it altogether. It took my favorite historical figure, Teddy Roosevelt to save the day. He convened a meeting in the Oval Office of the presidents of the biggest schools, like Harvard, to save football, because he thought it was good for the spirit of the nation. And they did. By creating the neutral zone. Legalizing the forward pass, and so on. And obviously it succeeded. 

If what it takes to save the NFL - and to protect and preserve the health of players - is to reduce risk by having them wear a deployed car air bag over their helmets for a few weeks, it's a small price to pay. 

Which begs the question why, if the guardian cap is better, they don't put them on every player at every position all the time? It's a legitimate point. And my guess is the truthful answer is, eventually they will. Get used to these things.