New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is optimistic that helmet safety in the NFL will improve at "warp speed" over the next couple of years.
As a guest on Russillo and Kanell on ESPN Radio on Friday, Payton said he's concerned about player safety in the short term, and helmets should be a top priority (via Mike Triplett of ESPN.com).
"I think the health ramifications and where we need to go, pushing the envelope quickly to catch up to speed with what we're dealing with—I would say, simply, start with the helmet," he said. "I would say we're way behind where should be right now with what we're putting on the players."
Payton told Ryen Russillo and Danny Kanell that he saw a prototype of a new helmet design while at the Senior Bowl in January:
It's amazing to see. If you took the analogy of an automobile in the '60s and '70s and how much of the impact passengers received in a collision and fast-forward to where we are now ... I think the same thing is happening and needs to happen with the helmet that we're wearing. So what we're used to right now as a helmet, I think, is going to change at warp speed right in front of our eyes in the next two or three years. It really is behind.
And it's not until the noise gets real loud that you really see change in any one area. And I think every one of us in this industry hears it, and it's deafening.
While the NFL has taken many steps to increase player safety, concussions remain a problem. Between 2012 and 2014, the NFL saw a decrease in diagnosed concussions from 261 to 206, per CNN. However, that number spiked to 271 in 2015.
On March 14, Jeff Miller, the NFL's senior vice president of health and safety policy, said there's a correlation between football and the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE, per Jill Martin of CNN.
With the league acknowledging there is a direct correlation between football and CTE and new helmet technology being introduced, it appears the NFL is taking an increasingly proactive approach to preventing concussions.