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?

HOW ARE YOU GOING TO NOT HAVE THE CREAMSICLE?!

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 jrfrancis@sportslogos.net 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