LA Rams 1st to receive full faceshield prototype but can the team pull off the look?

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The latest NFL proposal for a full face shield arrived at the LA Rams, the first team to receive the prototype, but can the players pull off the look?

The city of Los Angeles is chic. Always at the top of the game when it comes to the latest world’s fashions. So it was an unavoidable fate that the LA Rams would eventually be pulled towards the black hole of the fashion industry.  Fashion or safety? That is certainly not one of the debates we had expected to be involved in the days leading up to the start of NFL training camps across the nation. But here we are, in the middle of the debate.

It springs from the ongoing discussions and debates held between the NFL and NFLPA on matters that were not even significant issues just eight short months ago. But with the arrival of COVID-19, and all the associated risks of the coronavirus pandemic, the two sides have worked feverishly towards crossing all of the chasms between the two sides.  And the two sides have made remarkable progress. But we may be at another impasse.

Oakley Mouth Shield

The device is known as the Oakley Mouth Shield and is intended to be married to the already available face shield designed to protect the eyes. While the NFL has not mandated the use of the Oakley Mouth Shield, medical experts strongly urge players to do so as it does offer some protection. Per Tim McManus, the mouth shield has already been distributed to the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers — two teams close to Oakley’s home base — per NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer, and has also been sent to various player representatives and equipment managers for feedback.

It is the latest attempt to make NFL players safe despite playing in a contact sport.

Faceshield fashion focus

The matter is the design of the football helmet, and more specifically the face shield. The proposed change is to encourage, if not outright mandate, a full face shield to aid in the onfield protection of NFL players from inadvertent transmission from infected players to others during practices and games. The perceived problems include:

The face shields are a distraction to players  They are ineffective. They can hamper breathing at periods in the game of excessive exertion, requiring more rapid player rotations. They are something new for players, which makes them both unfamiliar and untrusted. But perhaps the worst of all? Can any LA Rams players truly pull off that look effectively?

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Of course, if All-Pro players like Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, or even Johnny Hekker accept the new helmet, there is no doubt that they can pull off the look somewhat. But if the entire team dons the full face shield, will they remain unique players, or will they begin to resemble the Empire’s stormtroopers on a football field?

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While that fashion debate rages on, we will press on towards the NFL season.  Keep in mind that while players will report for COVID-19 testing, the date for training camp has been postponed as the NFL and NFLPA resolve the pandemic protocols to be enforced during camp and the regular season.