Earlier this month, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald made it clear that he won’t wear a face shield in 2020. On Wednesday, he reiterated his position, but he also made it clear that he’s not actively telling teammates to decline the piece of added protection developed by Oakley and the NFL.
He also made it clear he doesn’t see the benefit of wearing it, which indirectly will influence teammates to not wear it.
“[E]verybody makes their own decisions,” Donald told reporters. “We’re all grown men. In my opinion, I don’t think it’s helping nothing if you wear it. We’re still out there tackling each other, sweating on each other. So, that little mask right there ain’t going to protect nothing. If somebody [does have] the virus, we’re just going get it too, so we’ve just got to go out there and play and hopefully everybody’s good.”
Donald said he’s seen none of his teammates using it so far. One who apparently won’t be using it is tackle Andrew Whitworth.
“I kind of get the idea of it,” Whitworth told reporters on Wednesday. “I don’t really see how it would be beneficial. If you have ever been close to O-linemen when we’re sweating on a football field and exerting energy. If it’s got a hole, it’s going through there I can assure you because we’re exerting so much sweat and snot and spit and everything else.
“It’s a good idea, it sounded cool. But to me, I don’t think that some of the risks outweighs — as far as the coronavirus stuff — but also the physical risk because you start really looking at, if you slow down tape and watch collisions and how much that helmet moves and those face masks move and the impacts, having something plastic against your face, especially kind of the material and all that, I would just worry about a cut, just scratches if it gets stuck in your face or your jaw somehow at the bottom of a pile. I just think guys weren’t really comfortable with, ‘Hey, that’s just something that, you know what, it looks neat,’ and maybe some guys will wear it. But I think overall, all the stuff you’ve got on, the impacts you’re going through, wearing something like that, I just don’t see a lot of guys being comfortable with that in the field of play.”
If, indeed, the NFL is doing all it can to keep the virus out of team facilities, the question of whether it makes sense to use one more device during games is a good one — especially if that device will make players less comfortable, and if it ultimately will not do much to counter the reality that players will still be breathing, coughing, spitting, sweating, and bleeding on each other. Absent hard proof that the face shield will make a major difference, it’s going to be very difficult to get players to place anything that could restrict their ability to properly breathe, or that would make them feel more confined while already trying to perform with layers or heavy pads and a helmet and a face mask.
And if there truly is a significant benefit from using the face shield, the league needs to do a better job of getting the message through to players who fail to see enough of a benefit to justify the added restriction on their ability to give everything they have physically to do their jobs.