NFL to allow players to wear protective Guardian Caps in games beginning with 2024 season

The padded shells were already mandated for contact practices

In a continuing effort to improve player safety, the NFL is allowing a piece of hardware to move from the practice field to regular game play.

On Thursday, the NFL released video of a recent health and safety webinar in which a league executive revealed that players would be allowed to wear padded Guardian Caps during games this upcoming season.

"There is the option for a player to wear it in a game if he so chooses," said Dawn Aponte, the league's chief football administration officer. "There were a number of clubs that had already required all of their players to wear those. And last year, we had also expanded it to include regular-season practices, helmeted practices and postseason."

(The video can be viewed here, with Aponte's remarks at the 37:45 mark.)

As Aponte mentioned, the NFL mandated wearing Guardian Caps during early training camp practices for all players except quarterbacks, kickers and punters. Last season, that requirement was also applied to regular-season contact practices.

According to the NFL, a player wearing a Guardian Cap could have the impact of a helmet hit reduced by at least 10 percent. Players both wearing the shell who collide on a helmet-to-helmet hit had the force of impact reduced by at least 20 percent.

In 2021, the Los Angeles Rams opted to continue using the caps during practice later in the season to prevent further injury among players. Quarterback Matthew Stafford injured his hand hitting an uncapped helmet while following through on a throw, according to USA Today.

Whether players choose to wear the padded shell helmet cover during games remains to be seen until the NFL preseason and regular season begins. Some might opt not to wear them so they don't stand out on the field. For instance, J.J. Watt said during training camp in 2022 that wearing the cap made him "feel like a bobblehead" that could "fall over."

However, others may choose safety over aesthetics. Aponte said players and teams were "very receptive to the change." Additionally, players were being encouraged to use position-specific helmets based on particular risk factors for head injuries.