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NFL to Expand Guardian Cap Wear in 2023



Steelers WR/KR Gunner Olszewski Guardian Cap

PHOENIX — The NFL will continue and expand its guardian cap program in 2023, after seeing a stark reduction in the number of preseason concussion in 2022.

Last season, offensive and defensive linemen, tight ends and linebackers wore the protective helmet covers during the first few weeks of training camp, when most teams are holding their full contact practices.

During that period, those position groups saw a 52% reduction in reported concussions, compared to a three-year average, NFL executive vice president Jeff Miller said Tuesday at the NFL Annual Meeting.

As a result, the program is being continued and expanded for 2023. Running backs will now also be mandated to be a part of the program, leaving only quarterbacks, wide receivers, defensive backs and specialists as players that will not be required to wear them.

The wear of the guardian caps will now also continue throughout the entire preseason and for any full-contact in-season practices.

Steelers OLB Alex Highsmith Von Miller

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith wears a Guardian helmet while he works minicamp drills at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Thursday, June 9, 2022 — ED THOMPSON

Despite only certain positions being mandated to wear them, the Pittsburgh Steelers actually exceeded the rules in wear last year, embracing the caps for most of the team, most of the time.

“We’re going to adhere to the rules,” said head coach Mike Tomlin, a competition committee member. “It’s a new rule. It’s for their safety and so we don’t run away from those things, we run to those things. We’re going to make it a non-issue for us about the work that we do.”

Many of the players complained about the bulky look of the helmets, but many were also appreciative of the extra protection, especially those that have dealt with concussions.

“Oh, you look dumb,” tight end Pat Freiermuth said. “You definitely look dumb. But it’s good protection. … I wore them in college. I like them, just because of my past with concussions. I kind of like the extra protection.”

The caps provide a 10% reduction in the impact force of a helmet hit. They also help protect players from other helmet-related injuries such as broken hands and fingers.

NFL Annual Meeting

Click for more of Alan Saunders’ coverage from the 2023 NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix.

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