In an unprecedented season, the NFL is exploring new avenues to protect its players amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the league might not require players to wear a new piece of equipment if it makes them uncomfortable. NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported the NFL is expected to recommend use of the newly introduced Oakley Mouth Shield, but is not expected to require use of it on the field, per a source informed of talks between the league and NFLPA.
The NFL had been pushing for the shields to be worn by all players, Garafolo added.
Oakley and the NFL teamed up to develop the Oakley Mouth Shield, a device that is similar to its popular visors in that it can be attached to the helmet's facemask, but different in that it attempts to prevent direct transmission of droplets. The shield is made of clear plastic with slits or holes in it that are designed to block a direct path of a droplet, while also allowing for breathing and verbal communication. It was first revealed in mid-July.
The NFL is leaving it up to the players to decide whether they want to use this safety measure while playing this season. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt was not a fan of such a concept, citing his discomfort while wearing a visor, which made him feel as if he couldn't breathe due to a limited airway created by the plastic shield.