What are Guardian Caps, and why are some NFL players wearing them during training camp?

Bradley Chubb laughed about his new piece of headwear at Denver Broncos training camp, in particular its lack of fashion.

“It is kind of ugly,” he said after Denver’s first day of on-field work. “I don’t like ugly.”

The fifth-year outside linebacker was talking about the Guardian Cap that he and many other NFL players are now required to wear from the outset of camp through the second week of preseason games in an attempt to curb the rate at which players suffer concussions this time of year.

The mandate came down from the league during the spring ownership meetings in March that offensive and defensive linemen, tight ends and linebackers must wear them during practice for the opening portion of training camp and until the third preseason week, when teams generally start to ease the amount of contact in practice.

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New York Giants linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux takes part in drills while wearing an NFL-mandated Guardian Cap.

What is the Guardian Cap?

The Guardian Cap is a soft, padded outer shell that is worn around the outside of players’ helmets. The NFL says that they can reduce concussions by up to 10% if one player involved in a collision is wearing one of them and up to 20% if both players involved in a collision have them on. For the last three seasons, before the Guardian Cap mandate began, the NFL has reported 30 documented concussions per year during preseason practices

Guardian Sports, the company that makes the caps, initially designed them thanks in part to funding granted by the NFL in pursuit of reducing the number of head injuries suffered in practice.

Why does the NFL require Guardian Caps?

Typically, as teams ramp up the amount of contact in training camps, the number of head injuries rises. Jeff Miller, the NFL's Executive Vice President for player health and safety, said in March that they settled on the timeframe for requiring Guardian Caps, “because that's where we see the greatest concentration of helmet impacts during the course of the year. Larger rosters, more frequent contact practices, so we hope that there will be an injury savings there for our players.”

Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett on Wednesday called them “sweet.”

“We talk about the team all the time and it’s about protecting the team,” he added. “If that’s going to help anybody, hey, we’re going to do it.”

Do NFL players like Guardian Caps?

Well, not exactly – at least for some. However, Chubb said he was more than willing to wear it if it helps keep players healthier through the grind of training camp.

“They’re a little heavy, but if they’re going to make us safe, I’m all for it,” he said. “I know guys around the league all have to wear them, so it is what it is. … It’s all good with me if it gets us to the season and knocks down concussions, it’s all good.”

Hackett had one ancillary benefit in mind pertaining to quarterbacks who might be stepping up into pass-rush traffic to throw the ball.

“I think it gives a little more protection to a quarterback when his hand comes forward, it’s a little bit softer than a helmet,” Hackett said. “There’s nothing bad about them except they’re maybe not the best fashion statement.”