Different faces, different masks?
October 15, 2007 8:36 AM   Subscribe

NFLter: Is there a science to face masks?

I don't watch a lot of American football, so forgive me if this is a stupid question. I understand the point of a face mask, and I think I understand why they're different for different players - QB's and receivers need a clear field of vision (thus nothing close to the eyes) more than inside linemen, etc - but what I don't understand is, within the same position, why do different players have different face masks?

Is there a function that these masks serve other than protecting the face, or is the fact that, say, Linebacker A wears one with three horizontal bars and Linebacker B wears one with about 6 purely a personal preference?
posted by pdb to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's generally the amount of contact the player is expected to receive in that position, for example a middle linebacker is probably going to get harder hits then an outside linebacker as in most systems he is primarily going after the running back. Furthermore a QB or a Kicker generally isnt going to be getting into the middle of things and vision is incredibly important so they have less gear on their faces. Its basically a matter of personal preference, but you can generally tell a persons position by the array they have up there.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:43 AM on October 15, 2007

According to a line in this article, players choose their helmets and it seems to imply as well that sometimes players choose certain helmets solely because other players do.
posted by drezdn at 8:47 AM on October 15, 2007

Here's a brief overview. There's some individual choice involved; I recall Madden commenting on some old-school kicker who chose a helmet with just one wraparound bar instead of the typical grille. In general, the tradeoff is between protection from contact and the ability to see the ball. Players who expect to get hit 100 times for every time they touch the ball, like linemen, tend to have beefier face masks. In contrast you can see that most quarterbacks wear face masks that loop all the way back to the edge of the helmet so their peripheral vision is not obscured.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:50 AM on October 15, 2007

Also, it's worth knowing that LaDainian Tomlinson's special helmet with a black sunshade in front of the eyes is not just a choice he made; it was prescribed by a doc because he's prone to migraines and the shade cuts the glare of the lights down.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:51 AM on October 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: In general, the tradeoff is between protection from contact and the ability to see the ball. Players who expect to get hit 100 times for every time they touch the ball, like linemen, tend to have beefier face masks.

Yeah, I get this part - what I don't get is why guys who play the same position will have different face masks. Two linemen on the same team will have a different mask - seems like personal choice/comfort, but I didn't know if there was any scientific reasoning behind it.
posted by pdb at 8:59 AM on October 15, 2007

pdb, I'm pretty sure it's personal choice. My guess is that the players are used to a particular face mask set up(say, it's what they used since High School) or that they think a certain face mask gives them a some advantage.
posted by drezdn at 9:04 AM on October 15, 2007

Within the same position, it's choice.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:28 AM on October 15, 2007

I'm sure the players would rationalize their choice by saying something about how it gives him the best combination of vision and protection that they need for their position, but in the end, I think most of them pick the ones that they do because they think they look the coolest/most appropriate for their image.
posted by dios at 9:37 AM on October 15, 2007

I agree with Dios. Cool/badassness factor is probably most important.

To emphasize their muscles and overall size, NFL players today hardly wear pads anymore.
posted by turbodog at 9:59 AM on October 15, 2007

A lot of it is personal preference, yeah.
for example,
Scott Player wore a single-bar facemask that was basically just a way to skirt having a facemask altogether,
but Adam Vinatieri wears a two across, two down concoction that seems a lot safer. (they're both kickers)
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 10:58 AM on October 15, 2007

There has also been a significant amount of innovation/differentiation in the world of football helmets in the past, oh, 5 years. Stuff like the Riddell Revolution and (just this year) the Schutt Ion are fairly drastically changing the look, design, and construction of the helmet and facemask.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:50 PM on October 15, 2007

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