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How NFL Equipment Works

The Face Mask
The next part of the helmet is the face mask, which the player chooses. The Panthers have 15 different styles in stock.

The face mask in the upper left provides good visibility for a quarterback or receiver; bottom left has a little more extension and might be used by a tight end; upper right would be chosen by someone like a linebacker; bottom right would be typical for a lineman.

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Equipment prep begins after each game for Miles and his staff. They replace as many as 15 face masks after every game because of damage. Each week, all of the helmet decals are stripped off and then replaced, the shells are cleaned with an SOS pad and then polished with Future floor wax.

Once the player has chosen his face mask, he chooses a chin strap from the several styles available and Miles fits it appropriately.

Another piece of equipment associated with the head is the mouth guard. These are simple half-moons of plastic with a strap on the end -- the strap hooks around the player's face mask so it isn't lost during play. Fitting a mouth guard is simple: You put it in warm water and allow the plastic to soften. Then the player puts the mouth guard in his mouth, leaving an imprint of his teeth and gums. As the plastic cools, the mold hardens. The result is a mouth guard specific to one player's mouth.

The last piece of equipment that a player can use to protect his head and neck is a neck roll. This foam roll fits around the back part of the jersey's neckline, and is intended to protect the head from being pushed too far backward -- or to lessen the blow when the head is snapped backward.