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Steelers linebacker speaks cautiously, but he's clearly not a fan of NFL's protective Guardian Caps – TribLIVE

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When it comes to the NFL’s new “Guardian Caps,” Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Myles Jack is at least trying to be more diplomatic than, say, for instance, Green Bay’s De’Vondre Campbell.

“I just think it’s stupid, to be honest,” Campbell said via Packers Wire. “You say you’re doing it to protect us, but the minute we take them off, we’re going to be so used to hitting with them that when you hit without it, it’s going to feel a lot different.”

The Great Gazoo-lookin’ caps are soft-shell pads that attach to the outside of the helmet. As explained by ESPN back in March, “the current version reduces force from head contact by up to 20% if all players involved in the contact are using it.”

And while it’s obvious Jack isn’t exactly a fan of the caps either, he’s willing to be a bit more political in his assessment of wearing them than Campbell is.

“Safety first. And they’re making the game safe, so if it’s going to make longevity for careers, it’s all good,” Jack said.

But make no mistake, Jack isn’t a fan of having to wear the extra layer of protection.

“I don’t like ’em personally. I don’t want to make a criticism of them. Whoever invented them, they are somewhere on a yacht with their shirt off enjoying their money,” Jack said. “It’s not going to give you that full collision where it echoes through your teeth, and you really feel it. So I don’t like it. I’d rather just feel it. But it’s for safety. … No problem with safety.”

The lack of echo through the teeth is exactly what the NFL wants to reduce. Especially in practice. Players are going to have to wear the Guardian Caps in practice at least up to the second preseason game.


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Campbell isn’t alone in his concern. His head coach Matt LaFleur is an advocate of the caps but does understand Campbell’s worry.

“I don’t want the guys to feel the confidence that they can now use their head,” LaFleur said. “So, that’s one of the things that’s not so great about it. You can get a false confidence, and now your technique suffers, and I definitely don’t want to see us go that way.”

New York Jets coach Robert Saleh also expressed similar concerns recently. And Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt went so far as to say, “You feel like a bobblehead. Like you’re gonna fall over.”

Jack’s biggest concern seems to be that defensive players in practice — and coaches who evaluate them — may not be getting an accurate read of how effectively they are hitting. He says the caps are absorbing a significant amount of the blow. Even when two players properly have their heads up and may meet squarely, facemask-to-facemask— as Jack and Derek Watt did in a “backs-on-backers” drill Monday.

“When you hit, it doesn’t create that separation you would typically get. It kind of cushions the blow a little bit. Personally, I would rather butt heads,” Jack said. “It’s like an airbag.”

Interestingly enough, early in that drill, head coach Mike Tomlin had been getting on some defensive players for not “getting rid of blockers.”

“Get them off you,” Tomlin shouted at the defensive group.

That might have been some evidence of what Jack was discussing. After that initial pop of the pads on the primary collision, (legal) force between the helmets was being absorbed by the caps, thus making it easier for the blockers to stay on their targets and harder for the rushers to get free.

And perhaps that could lead to frustration and bad habits by young defenders who are just trying to make the team.

But in order to win the battle of safety, the players are going to have to lose by making some sacrifices along the way.

Whether that’s balance (as Watt said), technique (as Saleh, LaFleur and Campbell said) or credit for making good hits (as Jack said), the players shouldn’t expect the league to reverse course on this action. I’m willing to bet those caps are here to stay forever.

Perhaps the player concerns are the only thing slowing the momentum toward making them mandatory on game days.

As dumb as they look, don’t rule it out.

TribLIVE Steelers writers Joe Rutter and Chris Adamski join Tim Benz for a training camp round table podcast in Monday’s Bella Construction “Letters from Camp.”

Listen: Tim Benz reports from Steelers training camp

Letters From Camp podcast–Steelers Training Camp Round table

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.


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