Just before the start of training camp, the NFL released a new face shield, designed by Oakley, that was created to help slow the spread of COVID-19 when players return to the field for the 2020 season. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has already started wearing the new face shield as he prepares for the start of the upcoming season. One player who won't be wearing the wearing the league's new protective face shield, however, is Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
"I need air when I'm out there, running around and breathing, with the long drives and stuff," Donald said on Wednesday, via ESPN's Lindsey Thiry. "I feel like we're out there, we're playing up close, there's nothing you can really do – if a guy got it and I tackle the guy then I probably got it because he's going to be sweating, spitting and slobbering right in my face ... hopefully guys are just doing what they need to do."
While the league wants every player to wear the face shield, the expectation is that the NFL will not make it mandatory, according to Mike Garofolo of NFL Network. The first version of Oakley's face shield was made available to every NFL team when players arrived for the start of training camp. Oakley has already started working on an updated version as well.
Dr. Jeff Crandall, chairman of the NFL's Engineering Committee, said that Oakley received feedback from NFL players during their creation of the face shield.
"The player feedback was integral in coming up with this design," Crandall said. "(Oakley) would start with this design and say, 'Do you like this one better or this one? How's your field of view on this one?'At the end, they did have feedback from players. This was their choice for the players they've evaluated so far. I think each player is going to have an evaluation for themselves in terms of exactly how they favor one concept versus another."
The NFL has made several changes due to the ongoing pandemic. Late last month, the NFLPA and the league agreed to implement several new protocols for the start of training camp. Players will be tested every day for the first two weeks of camp, according to Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer. After two weeks, the rate of positive test for the players, coaches and staff who are in close contact with the team will be examined. If findings show that the rate of positive tests is below 5%, testing will move to every other day.
Prior to the start of training camp, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to a plan that allows players to opt out of the 2020 season by Thursday if they are uncomfortable with the COVID-19 health protocols put in place. High-risk individuals could opt out and receive a $350,000 stipend, whereas those less at risk would receive a $150,000 stipend. Players also have the ability to opt out later in the season in the event that a family member becomes sick.