NFL Testing Facemasks with Surgical or N95 Material, NFLPA Medical Director Says

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2020

Helmets for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tennessee Titans are displayed during a news conference for this weeks NFL conference championship football game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

NFLPA medical director Thom Mayer has recommended that players wear modified helmets with either surgical or N95 material on the facemasks to protect against COVID-19 this season.

He also said the NFL is testing prototypes.

"Yes, it's a possibility," he said on Monday's The Adam Schefter Podcast, per ESPN. "Back in early March, I suggested ways to handle the helmets and the facemasks ... the league's bioengineers are testing prototypes with Oakley. They're looking at every issue, including when masks fog up."

For the time being, the NFL is moving forward with a plan to start the 2020 season on time in September. Other leagues that would normally be active at this time are on hiatus because of the coronavirus, including the NBA, NHL, MLS, MLB, Premier League and La Liga, among others.

Some sports have begun returning without fans in the stands, however, including NASCAR, the UFC,  Bundesliga and the KBO. 

The NFL will also reportedly begin opening team facilities Tuesday in states that permit it, per ESPN:

"The first group of employees allowed back into facilities would include no more than 50 percent of non-player staff, up to a total of 75 per day. The only players permitted to return would be those who were already rehabilitating injuries prior to the facility closures, and no members of the coaching staff are allowed in the facility. Strength and conditioning coaches participating in player rehab may continue that work in the facility but otherwise are barred until the rest of the coaching staff is allowed to return."

The bigger questions facing the NFL will be whether organized team activities later in the offseason are permitted to return, if training camp operates as usual or if the season ultimately starts on time, or games are hosted without fans in attendance. 

Mayer previously said the NFLPA will weigh all the options:

Lindsay Jones @bylindsayhjones

Mayer is an ER physician with extensive crisis management experience from years working at the Pentagon. He said NFLPA will "go anywhere the science takes us." Union's task force includes members of Dr. Fauci's team.

One reason the NFL is testing unique options like modified facemasks is the domino effect one positive case of coronavirus could have on the rest of the season. If a player tests positive, is he alone quarantined? Is his team and any teams he faced tested or potentially quarantined? Would the season be put immediately on hold, much like the NBA when Rudy Gobert tested positive?

The NFL has already revealed some scheduling contingency plans:

The Ringer @ringer

Here is the NFL's schedule flexibility for coronavirus pandemic https://t.co/02R0MLXFWE

But much remains uncertain about how a return to action would function if the coronavirus remains prevalent come the fall. Exploring as many unique preventive measures as possible ahead of time makes sense.