Throwback NFL Helmets are on the injury reports as… Doubtful

Written By:  •  Thursday, September 19, 2013

The NFL has circulated a memo telling teams that it is their “strong recommendation” that they do not have their players wear a separate helmet “purely for cosmetic reasons.” This means that teams whose throwback uniforms are paired with a differently coloured helmet will most likely not wear their throwbacks this year.

As we saw first with the Falcons, then with the Buccaneers, teams whose throwback uniforms that fans love, did not schedule or cancelled throwback uniform games. Cowboys reporter Bryan Broaddus even replied to tweets, confirming that the Cowboys would not be wearing their throwbacks on Thanksgiving.

Thanks, Roger Goodell. You’ve killed one of the best traditions in all of sports; the throwback uniforms on Thanksgiving Day.

We as fans could potentially never see this uniform in a live game again.

But why?

“Our Head, Neck, and Spine Committee, chaired by Drs. Hunt Batjer and Richard Ellenbogen, and the Player Safety Advisory Panel, chaired by John Madden and Ronnie Lott, have recommended that players no longer wear different helmets as part of a ‘Throwback’ or ‘Third’ uniform,” the memo sent from NFL league office said to teams.

Apparently, the NFL, with $9.5 BILLION DOLLARS in profits in the 2011-2012 season can’t afford to have the helmet fitting specialist fit players for a second helmet during training camp or practices during the year. That is NINE THOUSAND, FIVE HUNDRED stacks of a million dollars. Billion is not an easily comprehended, so I felt the need to type that out.

How is this the correct safety recommendation? In other helmeted activities, for instance motorcycle racing, helmets are replaced several times a year, and after ANY contact whatsoever. A rider can race 5-10 times, never be in an accident, and get a new helmet for safety reasons. However, an NFL lineman or safety, with thousands of high-pressure contacts per game, is DEMANDED by the league to not replace their helmet? Brandon Merriweather caused one concussion, then received one of his own in one single game. Is THAT helmet now more safe than a second, throwback helmet?

The Snell Memorial Foundation has an FAQ section that dances around a direct answer to the question of “Should I replace my helmet if I drop it.” They say you probably don’t need to, but maybe. If a drop can hurt the effectiveness of a motorcycle helmet, what does a football game do to a football helmet? We think (and we are far from experts in head trauma, but relatively good at common logic) the recommendation should more likely be to have a new helmet every game, rather than only one helmet all year.

But wait, Subterranean Bomb Shelter of Sports Logos and FroYo Stand, I JUST saw the Bears and the Bills wear throwbacks! Were they breaking the rules? Nice catch, dear reader! (Would you like sprinkles on this Coffee/French Vanilla swirl?) However, these teams were within the rules. How? They were the same helmets, with different decals applied!

The Bills “simply” pulled off the charging Buffalo and center stripe, and applied the throwback “standing” version.

The Bears took a similar path, by removing their decals, and even changing the facemask. No throwback decals were required to complete the look.

So, what teams won’t likely be wearing their beloved throwbacks anymore? How about we recognize the greatness that is throwback design and show all the teams who will either choose to pair their throwback uniforms with new-style helmets, or who will avoid their throwbacks entirely;

Goodbye, most gorgeous helmet in the NFL and your glorious gold stripe

We are sorry Pat Patriot, we will miss you.

Strangely cool leather textured helmet, meant to remind us that these uniforms were worn originally with leather helmets, we barely knew you.

The Packers tried to allude to leather helmets with their brown. Maybe they will try to go with all yellow?


So, NFL, are throwback helmets really a problem? What is the statistic? Do a greater number of head injuries occur in throwback helmets? Have players complained?

The helmets themselves, from the manufacturer, are EXACTLY THE SAME in the highest technology. The only difference is fit. Getting used to them. So, demand that teams have X practice hours in any helmet used in a real game. Demand higher technology testing in a lab. Order teams to only buy the most modern helmets and hire professional helmet fitters on staff.

The Riddell VSR4 is a lowly-rated helmet. So why doesn’t the NFL ban THOSE? Or the Adams A2000 Pro Elite which was judged by the Virginia Tech study to be unacceptable?

But don’t cop out on this concussion situation and try to add throwback helmets to your hit list of “things we tried to do to fix the problem.” Throwback games are BELOVED by fans.

Thanksgiving just wont be the same.

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JR Francis

JR Francis is an actor, writer, director, graphic designer, UX guru, father, comedian, and craft beer snob. You can reach him at or on Twitter @JRFrancisSLN*One of several full-time uniform reporters this site has including its founder, Chris Creamer, who started his site in 1997

  • Just counting down the days until Goddell is gone forever…still at “Not Soon Enough”

  • Aaron

    I’m puzzled by all this. Certain teams wore throwback unifoms/helmets last week and there was no issue. Now this week, is an issue. Doesn’t make sense. How will teams ever be able to wear throwbacks properly? Could this be the reason why most MLB batting helmets don’t match all caps including the alternate caps?

    • Hi Aaron, the reason for last week vs. this week is explained in the post. Give ‘er a read through.

      • Aaron

        I have, but still. The NFL makes a huge profit every year. You’d think they would try to budget the throwbacks in there. As asked before, could that be a reason why there are certain teams that don’t match their batting helmets with their caps. For instance, the Cleveland Indians only use their C cap design for both home and road helmets, but Chief Wahoo is on their home and alternate road caps only. The Detroit Tigers, Washington Nationals and Texas Rangers are able to wear all cap designs on their batting helmets. The Astros don’t have the orange bill design on their helmets and the Oakland A’s wear their gold bill design on all helmets home or road.

        • agege

          The A’s don’t wear gold bills on the road. The bills are green on the road.

  • Vaytch

    It truly is the No Fun League

    • my uncle recently bought a nearly new red Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan only from working part time off a macbook air. read more

  • Nick Wollen

    Meanwhile, many NCAA teams will have at least three different helmets to wear over a 12 game span. I agree that this all seems to be a bit of a red herring situation. I don’t see the NFL throwback moratorium as being a long term plan, and I certainly hope it’s not as I am a big fan of throwback uniforms in all sports. I think the popularity with the fans means money in the coffers from many different sources, especially merchandise. And if there’s one thing the NFL loves… I’m hoping that next year the NFL comes back with a different plan regarding throwback games that highlights the safety aspect.

  • Anthony

    So, let me get this straight…

    NASCAR racing teams professionally shrink wrap their cars all the time and the NFL –– which had a 9.5 billion dollar profit –– can’t find a company that can do the same exact thing to 50 helmets per team for a throwback game?

    I’m all for player safety, but c’mon, if NIKE can apply their logo to almost every uniform surface, they can figure out a way to graphically change the standard player helmet.

  • The NFL pulls off one of those “see, we’re doing things” moves that really doesn’t even approach accomplishing anything. Lame, but I cannot say I’m surprised.

  • Brad

    Great stats/suggestions! I hope the NFL sees this article and decides that a player must practice “x” number of hours instead of just not having a 2nd helmet.

  • MiK

    This is idiotic. Where are the stats that show these throwback helmets make players more susceptible to injury. Does Goodell think these helmets are actually from these eras? He knows the packers aren’t actually wearing leather helmets right? Or that they dug out Bucco Bruce from 1979?

    JR hit the nail on the head. If these helmets are unsafe, BAN THEM. But apparently it’s impossible for brand new helmets to get throwback treatments. SMH

  • Paranoid Pyro

    Really Unnecessary Rule…

  • Thun

    Goodell, killing the good things of NFL step by step.

  • Max

    Players would actually be safer wearing turbans than helmets.

  • Steve

    I guess I can understand the rule. My question is canthe team work in two different helmets if two different helmets are needed in that season? The players are set in the helmet they are wearing what if that helmet cracks wouldn’t they be wearing a new helmet when they replace it or am I reading the article wrong?

    • Aaron

      The CFL has at least three teams wearing multiple helmets as their regular attire. And not throwbacks either. I can understand limiting them to one regular helmet and at least a throwback helmet. Not the way the Stampeders, Eskimos and Rough Riders do it.

  • Tony

    A friend said it best: “what happens when a player gets traded? do they have to wear the helmet of their previous team?”

    Such a stupid rule.

  • Bill

    Goodell has ruined the NFL. I don’t watch anymore, until he is gone and all his stupid little rules are repealed.

  • Nathan English

    Just get the alternate helmets fitted!

  • Jed

    Another of the league’s idiotic policies that’s turning the NFL into the No Fun league. Just stupid! And you would think that with the throwback unis, they could be making some serious coin on it, but the NFL just doesn’t get it…if they want to do this, thenj just make the throwback helmets to today’s specifications as I’m sure Riddell can certainly accommodate the league in such a request.

  • Joe Popovich

    This is honestly one of the dumbest things I have ever heard in the world of sports, probably right behind the IOC removing wrestling from the Olympic Games.

    Was there any research or statistics published in accordance to the decision? Once again the NFL shows how bass ackwards it can be.

  • Joe

    Why is the NFL doing this when College Football has teams wearing multiple helmets a year?!?!

    • Aaron

      Good point! As far as college football goes, there should really be a minimum of the amount of helmets.

    • JB

      Yea that’s nuts the NFL makes alot more money than college football and yet some teams are banging out like 2-4 helmets this year. Makes no sense?! This sucks, all of my absolute fav throwbacks will be completely ruined. Talk about greed, I can’t believe I gota watch thanksgiving games that will look like any other game. Maybe I won’t watch it this year.
      Geez Goodell sucks.

  • ingmar66

    The NFL, as rich and successful as it is right now, is totally clueless about its fans. Get the throwback uniforms in to make more money but wait a minute, matching helmets are needed. And we only provide players with one single fitted helmet per season…This extra fitting is costing us too much money, scrap the throwback helmets, the fans won’t mind. They are stupid anyway, look at all the crap we are throwing at them with ugly Nike uniforms and stupid rules and they still gobble it up. And at the same time we will look very concerned with the health and safety of our players and deflect attention from pending court cases involving heavily concussed former players and their families, by banning throwback helmets. But how do we get the fans to like us a little more? How do we get rid of this No Fun League label? Maybe ban all fan criticism by constitutional law? Make it a national safety issue to enjoy the NFL on a compulsory basis, without any questions being asked? Goodell, you are a lawyer, explore this opportunity!

  • Toby Faber

    Solution: Just make the throwback helmets like the regular ones, in other words, use the logo, but make them the contemporary way.

  • jigokusabre

    I will not be sad to see Pat Patriots go extinct.

  • milwakuee

    god help us

  • Michael Sicilia

    Has Goodell lost his mind? He’s taking away something that is fun and nostalgic for the fans, and for uniform junkies like me. How about updating the throwback helmets so that they conform to today’s “safety standards” without sacrificing the look that many fans love? Now there’s a novel idea! The NFL is going to lose a lot of fans with this rule.

    Goodell just simply isn’t good anymore.

    Best Throwback Uniforms: New England, San Diego, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Tampa Bay

    • Aaron

      Buffalo, St. Louis (nee LA Rams), should be on the top of that list.

  • David

    It will be interesting to see Trent Richardson playing for the Colts with an orange helmet for the rest of this season.

  • agege

    How about having all the teams revive their classic looks permanently?

    • Jack

      except for Seahawks

  • NFL

    why get rid of tradition? I mean throwbacks shown a team’s attitude, history, and also gave them a “vibe” to their game. It also commemorated the past and their players of the past. Now………WTF
    1. Goodell takes away Super Bowl Creativity
    2. Goodell Enforces a tackle rule for kiddy football
    3. This.
    What will happen next?

  • SouthstanderRSM

    This is not a rule. I will repeat this is NOT a rule, It is a recommendation. The NFL can call it a “strong recommendation” if it wants to but that does not make it a rule. No wear in the article did I see any team state that the are not using their throwbacks because of a rule change. There is a lot of speculation in this article but very few facts.

  • hi players

  • Mike

    How is it possible for most college teams to have more than one helmet and the NFL can’t?

    • Aaron

      That’s what I ‘d like to know.

  • Josh

    Terrible. Terrible. Terrible.

    How about… instead of taking things away from the consumers they just go out of their way a little more to make sure everything is safe if that’s what they’re so concerned with?

    This SCREAMS “We rather take stuff away from the consumer cus that costs us nothing instead of spending a lil more money to assure the “Safety” of the throwbacks?

    Afterall how much does the NFL draw in annually?

  • Jake

    Unbelievable. Throwback uniforms remind me of watching football when I was a kid and they brought back a lot of memories. Does Goodell know that the throwback helmets are helmets of a current design and standards and that just the exterior details are designed from a throwback era? Once again, unbelievable