The NFL has teamed up with sports equipment company Oakley to test out modified face masks to prevent the transmission of the novel coronavirus among players and team personnel this coming season.
NFL Players Association medical director Dr. Thom Mayer discussed the testing Monday during an appearance on ESPN’s The Adam Schefter Podcast. He revealed that the modified masks might contain surgical or N95 material as a strengthened shield.
“Back in early March, I had suggested that we should consider novel and emerging ways to handle the helmets and the face masks and the spread of the virus,” Mayer said. “And these guys, the bioengineers that we use and that the league uses – Oakley, as you may or may not know, does all the face visors for the league under contract – these guys got the bit between their teeth.”
Mayer could not specify how the masks might end up looking but emphasized the importance of player safety and that these small changes are part of a greater new normal that is impacting so much of everyday life.
“They’ve got some prototypes. They’re doing really good work,” he said. “Some of them, when you first look at them, you think, ‘Gosh, no’ ’cause you’re not used to seeing it. You’re just not used to seeing it. But they’re looking at every issue you can imagine, including when it fogs up. What do we do with that? But these guys are used to dealing with this stuff.”
Face masks are just one of many safety measures the NFL is likely to take this coming season, along with routine virus testing and contact tracing as advised by Dr. Anthony Fauci. The league has also placed an emphasis on social distancing this offseason by closing team facilities and holding a remote NFL Draft.