With a pregnant wife at home and COVID-19 on his mind, Danny Shelton figured he’d give the new face shield designed to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus a try.
But a week into training camp, the Detroit Lions defensive tackle said he’s leaning towards not wearing the mask in games this fall and is waiting to try a second version of the protective device that should be available soon.
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“I like the concept of it as far as more protection,” Shelton said. “But it is something that’s really, like you’ve got to get used to it. It’s difficult to get used to as far as for me.”
Shelton is one of seven Lions who tried the shield either during practices last week or helmeted training sessions earlier this month, and one of two still currently using it.
The shield, designed by Oakley and recommended for use by the NFL, is made of plastic and has slits that block the direct path of any droplet to the mouth and nose area but allow for air flow and sound. Typically, it’s worn in conjunction with a visor that covers the top part of the face.
Shelton, who’s worn a visor for most of his career, sported the face shield in each of the Lions’ five practices last week.
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While some players have complained about their visor fogging up or difficulty breathing, Shelton said his biggest issue with the shield is the impracticality of it.
“I like to grab my face mask, adjust and stuff, and so you don’t have that luxury of doing that,” he said. “Mid-play, you’re going to have to take off your helmet to wipe off sweat and adjust. And also just cleaning it, cause I wear a visor on top of that, too, so I’d rather clean all of that to make sure. It just adds extra, I feel like, unnecessary time, I guess. Cause if I get fogged up during a play, I don’t have time to just go through my face mask and clean it up. I got to take off my whole helmet.”
Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said last week that feedback on the mouth shield “has been mixed” around the league.
“There’s some players that have really taken to it quickly and then there are others that have expressed concerns about the ventilation issue and so forth,” he said. “Based upon that feedback that we’ve already received, even before the padded practices, Oakley’s already in design and production of a version two of the shield to address some of the concerns that were expressed. So we expect that version two to be in the players’ hands sometimes within the next week or two to let them use that as well.”
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Shelton said he appreciates the concept and the idea of having more protection against the spread of the coronavirus on the field. His wife, Yvonne, is four months pregnant, and the couple has been extra careful with social distancing and hand hygiene throughout the pandemic.
And while he plans to continue wearing the shield for training reasons in practice — “It adds to the fatigue and that feeling of being tired,” he said — he likely won’t be sporting it in the regular season.
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“Right now it’s just kind of difficult to work with,” he said. “I didn’t have too much problem with the breathing aspect of it. Some guys are claustrophobic from it, but I kind of just block it all out. The only thing that annoys me is just the hassle of trying to clean mid-play. I have to wait till I get to the sideline to clean.
“I’m honestly going to go based off on how this second one they come out with is. If it’s more easier to handle I think I’ll play with it.”
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