Patriots coach Bill Belichick said players are experimenting with utilizing a face shield as a precautionary measure to protect against the coronavirus.
“I think we have some guys that will wear them and some guys that won’t,” he said Monday morning, the first day of the team’s padded practices.
According to Belichick, the face shield is “an optional piece of equipment” players can add to their helmet. All members of the roster have been given the opportunity to test it out during Phases 1 and 2, which largely consisted of conditioning, walkthroughs, and individual drills.
“They’ve run in them, worked out in them, and so forth,” Belichick said.
With the next phase of training camp allowing for contact, players’ experiences with the shield may change. Regarding the possibility of the plastic fogging up, Belichick noted there are means to mitigate that issue, citing snorkeling and skin diving equipment.
“There’s things you can do to prevent — or minimize — that problem,” he said. “I don’t know if eliminate is the right word, but there’s an airflow and a comfortability issue, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Unveiled by Oakley and the NFL in July, the face shield features clear plastic with slits and holes designed to block the paths of respiratory droplets while still promoting airflow and communication. Dr. Jeff Crandall, chairman of the league’s engineering committee, said the primary purpose of the product is to reduce the aerosolization of droplets, which is a mode of transmitting COVID-19.
The decision to wear the shield will be left up to each individual as the Patriots are not expected to issue a team-wide mandate.
Belichick said the team initially broached the topic with players in May, prior to the release of the Oakley version. The team began researching a few options, such as extending the eye shield or modifying equipment generally used following broken noses or other facial injuries.
“We started looking into that, and if we needed to have a manufacturer do that — ultimately, it was all done — but I’m saying we’ve been on this for quite a while,” Belichick said. “It’s not anything that came up on us quickly.”
The Patriots have not yet placed a player on the COVID-19/reserve list, which Belichick attributed to how seriously the team has treated the virus.
“The team and organization have addressed this very professionally, strictly, and we’ve changed quite a bit as more information or different techniques or products have become available,” Belichick said. “We’ve been very fluid. The players have done a great job of following protocols.”
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