When the Pittsburgh Steelers took the field on June 7 for the first session of this week’s three-day minicamp, the players were sporting a new look, wearing recently mandated Guardian Caps to practice for the first time:
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Here’s the photo — by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette photojournalist Matt Freed — that has gone viral.
Not surprisingly, countless fans are weighing in about how the Steelers coach is carrying off the look, with Twitter user pghguy9 saying: “(I)f one of us has to look this ridiculous, ALL of us have to look this ridiculous. I love it.”
Steelers fan Darren McKay said: “Damn Mike T makes anything look cool.”
“Ready for battle,” tweeted another fan.
“His head looks like a golf ball in that thing,” wrote yet another.
But if there has been one overriding theme to the commentary, it’s the hilarious notion that Tomlin is wearing the headgear for protection from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick:
The NFL Recently Mandated the Use of Guardian Caps
In all seriousness, though, the league has mandated the use of Guardian Caps — soft-shell pads that attach to the outside of the helmet via straps — in an effort to reduce concussions and the trauma associated with blows to the head.
As noted by ESPN staff writer Kevin Seifert, in late March owners approved a resolution that requires “offensive and defensive linemen, tight ends and linebackers to wear Guardian Caps for every preseason practice between the start of the training camp contact period and the second preseason game.”
There’s a reason the league chose to focus its attention on this particular portion of the NFL calendar.
“The rate of head contact lowers after the second preseason game as most teams shift to a lighter practice load. Players will be encouraged but not required to wear the Guardian Cap thereafter,” added Seifert, explaining why the league has chosen to mandate the use of Guardian Caps during early training camp periods.
According to Guardian, testing by NFL-NFLPA engineers indicates that the addition of a Guardian Cap “represents a 20% reduction in head impact severity if two players are wearing them.”
Mike Tomlin: It’s ‘a Non-Issue for Us’
Not surprisingly, Tomlin was asked about the Guardian Caps following Tuesday’s practice.
“You know, we’re going to adhere to the rules. It’s a new rule — it’s for their safety and so we don’t run away from those things. We run to those things. We’re going to make it a non-issue for us and it’s about the work that we do,” he said, matter-of-factly.
It’s not the first time that Tomlin has gone viral because of something he wore during practice. During training camp in 2020 he ditched his normal black, long-sleeved shirt in favor of a red polo-style shirt with the words “CLEANING AMBASSADOR” on the back. He wore the shirt to honor the cleaning crews at Heinz Field, who were working overtime to keep everyone in the organization safe in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
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