The Cincinnati Bengals will be in full pads for the first time during training camp today. But for some of the players it will be the first time in their careers, including games, they’ve been fully suited.
In May of 2012 the NFL implemented a new rule making it mandatory for players to wear knee and thigh pads during games, something many skill position guys did not do. The rule goes into effect this season.
“I wore thigh pads in college, but when I got here I kind of did away with the thigh pads,” said Bengals cornerback Leon Hall, who is entering his seventh season in the league.
“I think it’s more mental than anything,” Hall added. “If you’re slow, you’re going to be slow. If you’re fast, you’re going to be fast. I’ve done it for so long, it was just a comfort thing.”
The NFL Players Association balked at the mandate, arguing it should be negotiated, but because it is a playing rule the league was able to institute it unilaterally.
The rule does not cover practices, but Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is making the players wear all pads beginning with today’s practice to get everyone used to them.
“That’s cosmetic, really,” Lewis said. “A lot of our players are comfortable wearing thigh boards. They’re asked to wear them in college, and most of our guys are so young that they’ve worn them the last two or three years. And they’re skill players. For Terence Newman, he’s probably the biggest adjuster. James Harrison, too.”
Newman, who is in his 11th year in the league, said he has worn them in the past, but not since 2006 when he was playing for Bill Parcells in Dallas.
“Parcells, he kind of mandated it,” Newman said. “I wore them for quite a while then kind of just shed them because I didn’t really get hit in my thighs. It’s not really what happens to DBs, so there was no sense in wearing them. The knee pads sometimes kind of annoy you a little bit. They move. That’s probably going to be the worst part for me.”
There are several varieties of each available, and many of the veterans not accustomed to wearing them said they would experiment with each type during camp.
“I’m going to start trying out the different ones (today) when we go full pads and find one I like,” said defensive end Robert Geathers, the longest tenured Bengals players who is entering his 10th season. “I haven’t worn them since college. You just feel lighter and quicker. But it’s part of football. I’ll adjust.”
If a player is found to not be wearing the pads during a game, he will be sent off the field. The one exception to the new rule is kickers, a loophole Newman found intriguing.
“What I’m going to try to do is be like a backup kicker and then that way I don’t have to wear the thigh pads or the knee pads, and I can do it legally,” he joked.