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NFL, Oakley Introduce Virus-Defending Face Shields

Brock Fritz

More than any other sport entity, the NFL has appeared optimistic about playing its upcoming season during the COVID-19 pandemic. The league recently revealed one of its new on-field health and safety measures, with the Associated Press reporting that the NFL and Oakley teamed up to create face shields for players’ helmets.

“We often say physical distance and football don’t go together,” NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills told the AP. “That causes you to look for other innovations which could possibly be a flag bearer, and we think this falls into that category.”

NFL Engineering Committee chairman Jeff Crandall described the product, which ESPN reports is called the Oakley Mouth Shield, as “clear plastic with slits or holes in it that block any direct path of a droplet, but do promote air flow, communication, soundwaves.”

The shield is intended to mitigate the exchange of germs and droplets between players, as well as prevent individuals from touching their face.

“They came up with a mouth shield that tried to keep the field of view as much as possible; you don’t want to block the lower part,” Crandall said. “You want to promote breathing and not a sense of restriction. You want to maximize comfort.”

Some NFL players have already signed off on the design, while time is of the essence with training camps scheduled to start later this month. The shields will go through more stringent player testing over the next week, when, according to ESPN, they will be distributed to all 32 teams.

“They (Oakley) would start with this design and say: ‘Do you like this one better or this one? How’s your field of view on this one?’ Crandall said of the players’ involvement. “At the end, they did have feedback from players. This was their choice for the players they’ve evaluated so far. I think each player is going to have an evaluation for themselves in terms of exactly how they favor one concept versus another.”

The AP reported the players vetoed face mask prototypes, leading to the creation of Oakley’s face shields. Oakley chief revenue officer Renie Anderson said that over 700 NFL players wore Oakley’s eye-covering visors last season, making the company a natural partner for virus-related shields.

NFL Players Association medical director Dr. Thom Mayer told ESPN the two biggest concerns with the shields have been visibility and breathability.

Related content: NFL Mandates Tiered Facility Access for All Teams

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