In the latest effort to conform the league to a standard uniform and equipment code, the NFL has sent out a memo banning players from using any facemask that is considered ‘non-standard’.
You may have noticed a few players wearing the heavy-duty, overbuilt facemasks that made them look like the villain Bane from the Dark Knight movies but those players will face a fine if the trend continues in 2014.
Supposedly a Safety Precaution
As the NFL is wont to do, they say the banning of the facemasks is strictly a player safety issue. According to supposedly independent research, the bulkier facemasks weigh more which will lead to 6’5”, 260 pound athletes to suffer from neck fatigue which in turn lowers their head on tackles leading to neck injuries. The NFL also states that the overbuilt facemasks will lead to players using their helmet more on tackles because they have less fear of injury. Isn’t that basically saying the bigger masks offer more protection so players won’t be as timid when tackling?
More of a “Don’t Stand Out’ Rule?
The NFL, like most major professional sports, doesn’t like their athletes to be above the game. Of course players with above-average talents will certainly stand out and make the league millions of extra dollars but they don’t want you to know that. The NFL is especially tough on uniform violations, or the use of unsanctioned logos or company names.
Take for instance the fact that Robert Griffin III was fined $10,000 for wearing an unauthorized t-shirt…during warmups…of a preseason game. Wes Welker faced the same bill when he sported an ‘illegal’ hat during a postgame interview. Frank Gore had a costly 2012 NFC Championship game as he was docked $10,500 for having socks that were too low.
It’s not hard to decipher that the NFL’s ruling had little to nothing to do with player safety and everything to do with money somewhere along the line.
After all, it’s not like the masks are being welded and fabricated in a van in a dark alley, they still come from authorized helmet manufacturers who still test them to NOCSAE standards. Plus the NFL has banned titanium facemasks that would be much lighter than the current carbon steel models, thus lightening the load on a player’s head.
Injured Player Exception
The real kicker in the NFL’s new facemask policy is that injured players will still be able to wear the overbuilt facemasks.
Ravens DL Chris Canty for example will file for an exemption because of an eye injury he suffered from a flying beer bottle that landed him a detached retina. A player will need medical clearance to wear the extra-protective, bulkier facemasks, a notion that kind of flies in the face that the models are more dangerous to player safety.
The entire memo and banning of the masks may be much ado about nothing, after all only 4 players wore the masks last year that would’ve resulted in fines this season. Still it’s looked at by many as another sign of micro-managing and over-control by Roger Goodell and his cronies, which isn’t giving any notion to the “No Fun League” moniker going away anytime soon.