How NFL Equipment Works

The Helmet

Protecting the head from injury is obviously important, because a concussion can easily put a player out of commission. To provide maximum protection, the equipment manager's goal is to provide each player with a helmet that fits perfectly. Starting at the top, a player's equipment begins with the helmet and mouth guard.

The helmet consists of several different parts:

  • Shell - The team stocks four different models, two each from two different manufacturers.
  • Jaw pads and air bladders - Come in a variety of thicknesses for a perfect fit
  • Face mask - Comes in 15 different styles
  • Chin strap - Comes in six different styles
  • Mouth guard - Comes in a variety of colors and sizes

A regulation helmet, face mask, jaw pads and chin strap

Since the NFL allowed wireless communication in regular-season NFL games in 1994, quarterbacks can't get coaches out of their heads. Rather than coaches calling a time-out in order to give a play to a quarterback, many of today's teams are opting for radios inside their quarterback's helmet. Players from the "old school" might argue that this creates an unfair advantage, but proponents say that the radio helmets make for clear coach-to-QB communication, even in large, noisy games like the Super Bowl.

According to a press interview held with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the quality of the sound is good, but crowd noise factors in. “It’s about like what you’d hear over a loudspeaker,” said Bucs QB Shaun King. “It can be hard to hear when there’s a lot of noise on the outside, but it’s pretty clear.”

The helmets are set up with a small speaker in each ear hole. Quarterback coaches or offensive coordinators on the sidelines talk to the quarterback with a radio, giving him specific plays and options.

You can find out more about the evolution of this wireless communication and its recent uses by reading "A Wireless Superbowl."