The NFL is always looking to make the game safer each year. And as the 2020 season gets underway this week, the league recently permitted the use of Guardians Caps in practices. Guardian Caps are helmet covers pad the outside of the helmet to reduce impact and hopefully reduce injuries. The Atlanta-based company's road to getting approved by the NFL wasn't an easy one.
"This has been a 10-year journey from where we started," Erin Hanson, Guardian Innovations owner and founder said exclusively to PopCulture.com. "It took us a while to get a foothold with the college programs. Once they get used to them and they start having some feedback, that's how it pretty much spread across the country. We started with South Carolina and Clemson. When we first started, nobody wanted to even think about it, and now we're at 250 colleges, including Texas, Washington, UVA, Penn State, Oklahoma and more."
"I was waiting for today for a long time."@JoshAllen41_ was ready to get back to work in full pads today.— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) August 17, 2020
Hanson said the coaches see a difference in the players after using the caps, which has led to coaches taking the products to a different team if they get another job. Along with the 250 college programs, Guardian Caps are used at 1,500 high schools and 550 youth programs. As for the NFL, the Jacksonville Jaguars are the first team to use Guardian Caps, and the hope is that all 32 teams will begin using them in the near future.
"We’ve been trying to help these guys all along," Hanson said. "We get a lot of former pro players in the office. The struggles they face are real and they think about protection when it comes to letting their sons play." A couple of the former pro football players who have visited Guardian Innovations were Jerome Bettis and Tim Lester, and Hanson said their sons' teams won't practice without the Caps.
But how did Guardian Caps get approval from the NFL? Testing of the caps was done at Biocore, LLC of Charlottesville, Virginia - a lab appointed by the NFL. Lee Hanson, who is also founder and owner of Guardian Innovations said: "For the last 4-5 years Biocore has been watching every play of every NFL game and watching all the linemen, everyone who gets the hits. They simulated on their equipment in the laboratory the exact hits that the players are experiencing on the field." Dr. Jeff Crandall, who runs Biocore, told Guardian in 2019 he's been testing a lot of different products and said the cap "is the only add on that improves in all helmets by reducing impact in all hits they simulated for lineman."
"With us being on the college field for the past eight years, we get feedback from all of those guys," Erin Hanson said. "Dabo Swinney isn’t doing anything for eight years if it doesn't work... If a 300-pound lineman is going to line up against you and come at your knees or your ribs, everybody talks about the head impact, but no matter where that guy hits you I guarantee you you'd rather have a pad on the exterior of his helmet than not."Guardian has heard the criticism over the years that the caps will make football look weak. Erin Hanson understands why some people would complain about the cap but explained what the caps are really for.
"It's practice, man," she said. "Your goal is to get to game day. If you’re reducing the severity of every hit that happening into your head, your ribs your knees and fingers… Everything is better with the impact reduced during practice. That's what we're trying to do. We love football. I want football to remain a part of American culture. We're just another piece of the puzzle. The problem is if we don't do something to improve equipment for these guys, the mommas aren’t going to let their sons play and the numbers are going to go down."