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NFL hoping for expanded use of Guardian Caps


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INDIANAPOLIS — NFL executive vice president Jeff Miller said the health & safety innovation committee will recommend an expanded use of the Guardian Cap to the competition committee after favorable results in 2022.

According to Miller, concussions were down 52% for offensive and defensive linemen, tight ends and linebackers who wore the Guardian Cap during offseason work and the early part of training camp. The hope is to expand the use of the Guardian Caps to skill players and have players wear them longer than just for practices through the first two preseason games.

“We’re taking the feedback we got from players on fit, on heat and other things and studying those, so they’ll get a redesigned Guardian Cap that will [adhere] a little better and certainly won’t retain heat,” Miller said during a break in meetings Monday in Indianapolis. “So, for all those reasons, we’ll recommend strongly that more players wear it for a longer period of time. I think it’s fair to say the committee was interested in that recommendation.”

The committees will talk to the NFL Players Association before the expanded use is enacted.

“It was interesting to me that several of the coaches in the room kept a number of their players in the Guardian Caps throughout the season,” Miller said. “I think there were 150 players throughout the league that wore them all the way through the regular season in any contact practice. So, I think that not only have players worn [it] in college, but now they’re getting to wear it in the NFL and they’re acclimating to it.”

The hip-drop tackle, which ended the season of Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard, was also brought up during Monday’s meeting. Pollard suffered a broken fibula on the tackle and required surgery to repair a high ankle sprain.

“We certainly shared with them that the severity of the injuries on the hip-drop tackle is higher than your average injury rate,” Miller said. “We looked specifically at high ankle sprains and saw a higher, much higher than average injury rate when that sort of tackle is implemented.”

The competition committee asked for more research on the number of hip-drop tackles and the injuries that resulted because of it.

“The hip-drop tackle was an evolution of when we were tasked or clubs were tasked to get the head out of the game,” NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said. “We all were taught to get your head across the bow and we realize in our efforts to get the head-to-head contact [out], as we would say, [Seattle Seahawks coach] Pete Carroll introduced the Hawk tackle. A lot of that is getting the head behind the body, and that swings your leg behind and oftentimes it traps the legs. So, it was a result of something that … . We need to just spend a little bit more time because the intent is obviously not to injure a player, but we’ve seen a few.”

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