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Getting to the Bottom of Antonio Brown’s Helmet Flap

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Antonio Brown’s helmet flap with the NFL has come to an end, with Brown losing a second grievance hearing with the NFL on Sunday and him reporting to Oakland Raiders practice this week wearing a new, fully approved model.

But even though he lost his battle with the league to keep wearing his Schutt Air Advantage, Brown may end up winning out in the end.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus said on Sirius XM Radio that Brown has arranged for some time of sponsorship deal with a company to create him his own, new helmet.

“As a result of all the publicity accrued from our efforts to get him to wear that helmet, he has multiple offers on the table right now from various companies to custom-make a helmet for him and pay him quite a bit of money,” Rosenhaus said. “We have found, without getting into specifics, some very suitable alternatives. We’re very excited. Antonio will be wearing a helmet. He won’t be missing any time, and he’ll be getting paid a lot of money to do so. It’s sort of a happy ending, even though he won’t be able to wear the old helmet.”

So Brown is going to get a brand-new, custom-fitted helmet. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?

Actually, that’s part of the issue that’s been at hand from the beginning.

The biggest difference between the modern helmets that are approved and Brown’s older model is that current helmets are formed after having taken a custom, 3D scan of the player’s head. The Air Advantage is so named because the inside of the helmet uses an air bladder to properly seat itself to a player’s head.

To learn more about how modern NFL helmets work, Steelers Now reached out to Riddell’s Jeff Hartung, who manages the company’s accounts with several NFL and college teams, including the Steelers and Pitt Panthers.

SN: What is different about the helmet that Brown wanted to use?

Hartung: It’s your basic, air-fitted protective helmet. The shell at that time was a pretty generic shell. We’ve advanced the technology.

SN: Why have helmet designs changed?

Hartung: People think they see one big hit and that’s what causes (a concussion). … But there’s a lot of hits in the game. It’s important to have technology that’s just as good with the small, continuous hits as it is with the big ones.

Technology has changed. We’re now able to three-dimensionally scan a guy and make a helmet fit perfectly to his head with better protective qualities.

SN: What are the factors that might make a player prefer a certain helmet?

Hartung: In that era, protection was good. It wasn’t great. But the look was important. We always kidded or laughed because there was always a mirror test. You could talk to a player about protection, but the first thing he did was always go look in the mirror. I think those attributes of how he looked attributed to AB and those other players, that had a role in it.

And you can say that guys played their entire career in it and never had issues with head injuries in that helmet.

SN: Are modern players more focused on their safety than they used to be?

Hartung: The culture has changed with the college kids that are coming into the system now. Especially with helmets like the Riddell Speedflex that advanced the technology, these kids are getting educated. It’s helping the NFL guys because now these guys know about the precision technology.

Also, the recruiting aspect has changed, because parents are more educated today. When they’re going to colleges, it’s not about, ‘We’ve got three chrome, pretty looking helmets. You want your kid to come here.’

Parents are asking, ‘What helmets do you have to protect my kid.?’

That has been changing over the last five years.

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