NFL Players Association medical director Thom Mayer told ESPN that the league is developing facemasks to protect players from COVID-19.
Speaking to ESPN reporter Adam Schefter on The Adam Schefter Podcast, Mayer said the league and Oakley are testing prototypes of helmets with a modified facemask that could contain surgical material or even the material used in the 3M (NYSE:MMM) N95 respirator masks that have seen heightened demand during the coronavirus pandemic.
“They’ve got some prototypes,” Mayer said on the podcast. “Some of them, when you first look at them, you think, ‘Gosh, no’ because 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.”
In another exchange in the podcast, Schefter asked Mayer if it’s realistic to think that players could have fully covered facemasks. Despite the drastic change from the normal look of a helmet, Mayer said it is entirely possible and that is a concept that has been discussed.
As of right now, there is no change in the NFL’s approach to the upcoming season, with the scheduled start remaining on Sept. 10. While U.S. sports leagues like the NHL and NBA had to pause their seasons, and the MLB could not begin its campaign, the NFL is still in the midst of its offseason and has time to implement necessary changes with eyes on carrying on as planned.
The league did have to transition the NFL Draft to a virtual event last month, but plans to be on the field in September remain the same. Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC Sports’ Peter King earlier this month that it’s feasible to play games in front of empty stadiums with negative-testing players, but the league may have to prepare to shut things down if a number of players test positive, hence the measures to implement the new facemasks.