Robert Saleh expresses concern about Guardian Caps

Robert Saleh expresses concern about Guardian Caps

USA TODAY Sports

Some players have complained about the new Guardian Caps, foam helmet liners that are mandatory in training for the first two pre-season games. On Saturday, the Jets’ Robert Saleh became the first head coach to voice public concern.

“I think the spirit of it all is really good, it has great upside,” Saleh said after practice, via ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini, “but I think there is a balance in everything, right? Too much of anything is a bad thing.

He worries that players will get into the habit of using their heads more than they otherwise would, given that the Guardian Cap lessens the impact.

“I think because of the soft hit, it allows players to use their heads a bit more,” Saleh said. “I think the first time they take it off – anyone who’s played football knows the first time you take your helmet off or you hit the helmet or you have a collision, there’s a shock. I think if you wait until game one for that clash to happen…. I don’t know, time will tell. It’s just interesting with these Guardian Caps and what exactly are we trying to accomplish.

Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer, responded in a statement provided to Cimini.

“The brain doesn’t acclimate to head impacts,” Sills said. “The Guardian Cap helps mitigate these forces at a time in the season when we see the greatest concentration of them.”

This is the purpose of the equipment change. To minimize brain damage that would otherwise occur during early pre-season training. Saleh’s question is whether this will induce bad habits that will pave the way for more brain damage once the Guardian Caps are removed.

It’s a good question, but it’s probably not the kind of thing the powers that be will appreciate. The league made the switch and the league believes in the approach. Whether the data ultimately supports Saleh’s theory is another matter. For now, however, the league surely prefers coaches to adhere to Guardian Caps, so players will too.

And Saleh’s comments will likely be enough to prompt the league office to send some sort of memo to all teams asking coaches, managers and owners not to say anything publicly that undermines the Guardian project. Cap.

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