NFL, Oakley unveil coronavirus 'mouth shield' to protect players on the field

Protective shield meant to block path of droplets known to spread COVID-19 without restricting airflow

The NFL and Oakley eyewear teamed up to produce a helmet “mouth shield” designed to protect players from coronavirus exposure during play, officials announced Monday.

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Designed by NFL-affiliated doctors and engineers, the Oakley Mouth Shield is made from plastic and utilizes specially crafted slots and openings. The protective shield is meant to block the path of droplets known to spread COVID-19 without restricting airflow or sound waves in a way that would impact performance.

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“[Oakley] had a visor that covers the eyes. What could we do to cover the mouth and nose area?” said Dr. Jeff Crandall, chairman of the NFL’s Engineering Committee. “So they came up with a mouth shield that tried to keep the field of view as much as possible; you don’t want to block the lower part. You want to promote breathing and not a sense of restriction. You want to maximize comfort.”

Oakley Mouth Shield (Oakley via AP)

NFL officials are seeking ways to limit health risks for players in a sport where physical contact is unavoidable. Oakley, an NFL partner, is the league’s official manufacturer of helmet visors.

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The NFL and the NFL Players Association finalized a slew of health and safety guidelines last week related to travel, treatment and team facilities during training camp. However, officials from both sides have yet to reach terms of testing and screening protocols during the pandemic.

At present, league officials haven’t mandated the players wear a face mask or mouth shield on the field. However, Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said players will be advised to wear protective equipment once designs are finalized.

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"That's certainly what we're going to encourage," Sills told ESPN. "And we hope that we're going to land on a product design that's something that everyone would want to wear, because they'll see the value and want that additional protection without any detriment to performance."

Members of the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams have already received shipments of Oakley Mouth Shields for a trial run, according to ESPN.

NFL teams are set to report to training camp on July 28.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.