With so much focus on the amount of injuries in the NFL, it stands to reason that players would want to add as much equipment to their bodies as possible for protection. Turns out it’s exactly the opposite, reports Alex Marvez, and Chiefs center Casey Wiegmann and wide receiver Chris Chambers are among the players shedding items that could help protect their bodies.
Only 50 percent of players wear every major piece of protective padding at their disposal, according to statistics given the league by the NFL Players Association.
Even though it may lower concussion risk, one quarterback (Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck) and two centers (Kansas City’s Casey Wiegmann and Washington’s Casey Rabach) surveyed by FOXSports.com said they don’t use mouth guards largely because of verbal communication concerns and discomfort. Wide receivers and defensive backs are known for eschewing any protection between their knees and torso. Some remove the actual padding and use only the thin plastic shells.
Vanity plays a major role in such thinking, especially among some wideouts and cornerbacks who are self-conscious about their appearances. Some also believe they run faster without pads, even though the NFL says such a contention has never been proven.
“It’s a combination of speed and looks,” said Chiefs wide receiver Chris Chambers, who uses shells to protect his thighs and doesn’t wear a tailbone pad. “It might be looks first, to tell you the truth. If you look good, you’re going to feel good. You’re going to feel fresh. You’re going to feel fast. You don’t want these big, bulky thigh and knee pads.”
“I always had a mouthpiece in the top of my helmet just in case, but I got comfortable,” Wiegmann said. “Now I can’t even put one in.”
Asked whether he has suffered a concussion during his NFL career, Rabach laughed and said, “I’ve never been diagnosed with one.” Wiegmann has and admits to playing “a couple of games where I don’t really remember the game at all.”
Ultimately, the NFL may enact mouth guard and padding rules to save players from themselves and reinforce the higher standards in place at the college, high school and youth levels.
“If everyone had to do it, the game would be exactly the same,” Chambers said. “Nobody would have an advantage.”
I might not agree with him, but I get Chambers not wanting to wear the thigh and tailbone pads. Nearly a decade in the league without any problems, why change now?
But Wiegmann is nuts for playing without a mouthpiece. It would be one thing if somehow he had played that way and stayed injury free, but he even admits to finishing games that he doesn’t remember. Concussions are an epidemic in the NFL right now and the league is seemingly working with scientists non-stop to get them under control.
You can function perfectly fine once you retire with a variety of leg injuries. It’s sort of important to keep your coconut protected because once you lose that there’s no going back. Hopefully the NFL will make it mandatory for players to wear a mouthpiece sooner rather than later.