The Commanders' new helmets have drawn tons of praise since their introduction in February, but to open up training camp on Wednesday many of the players suited up with special padding that obscured the well-received gear.
The reason for that is because of a recently-approved mandate that was agreed upon by the NFL and the NFL Players' Association in an effort to reduce head injuries. That's why Washington's offensive and defensive linemen, tight ends and linebackers (as well as others who opted to join the movement, like the team's running backs) were spotted donning what are called Guardian Cap covers.
From the start of camp all the way through the second preseason game, Commanders who play the above positions will be required to sport the Guardian Caps at every practice. Per the manufacturer, the pads can mitigate the force of contact to the head if everyone in a given collision has one on.
"You guys didn't hear the clack of the helmets," Ron Rivera said Wednesday when asked for his thoughts on the equipment. "That's typically what happens when you don't have the Guardian Caps on. Inevitably, incidental contact, helmet will be hitting helmet, but with these Guardian Caps, what they'll do is they'll absorb some of the shock and take a lot of the shock off of the players."
The reason that the NFL is mandating that the add-ons be worn during such a specific timeline is because, according to league research, it's a stretch where concussions occur more frequently. After the second exhibition contest, practices become less physical and rosters constrict.
While the changed-up look was definitely noticeable to observers, Washington linebacker Jamin Davis wasn't necessarily floored by the switch.
"I'm not really paying too much attention to it," Davis said.
His fellow linebacker, Cole Holcomb, was largely unperturbed by the fit, too. He was, though, supportive of the idea.
"Once you going, you don't really think about it," Holcomb said. "Initially, I was like, 'OK, it's a little heavier, a little hotter in there,' but once you get going, you're not thinking about anything."
"Brain's most important thing," Holcomb continued, "so anything we can do."
While Rivera and Holcomb came across as fond of the idea, tight end Sammis Reyes was dubious of whether such a measure will become a fixture in the future. He appreciates the focus on safety much like Holcomb — "It's a great thing to emphasize," Reyes told reporters — but he just isn't ready to predict that the Guardian Caps will ever be made permanent
"I think it takes some of the fun of football away," Reyes said.