DALLAS — Packers QB Aaron Rodgers doesn't take for granted the difference a high-tech helmet can make in the battle against concussions. Not after he credited a late-December switch to a new helmet for preventing what could have been his third concussion of the season.
Rodgers took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Bears DE Julius Peppers in the NFC championship game, but he stayed in and Rodgers said, despite speculation to the contrary, that he didn't suffer a concussion on the play.
"It was a group decision when we decided to change helmets," Rodgers said Wednesday. "Obviously, every helmet that is used in the NFL goes through a testing policy — I'm not sure what that testing policy is, but the one I'm using has been working pretty well and I haven't lost in it yet."
Rodgers' Packers teammates made fun of how the high-tech helmet looked when he first wore it at practice, however, and there is resistance from some players when it comes to switching to newer helmets that look strange and might not feel as comfortable.
The NFL has safety standards that each helmet must meet, but it does not require players to wear the most up-to-date version available — Steelers WR Hines Ward cited that when he blasted the league, questioning the sincerity of its ramped-up campaign to protect players and prevent concussions in a recent GQ magazine article.
PFW asked Ward on Wednesday if he had changed helmets to a modern version with added safety features.
"Early in training camp I did change to a new helmet," Ward said. "I don't even know what the helmet is called. We played the New York Giants in the preseason and a great friend, a (fellow) Georgia (alumnus), (D.J.) Ware, had a pretty big hit. I was coming off the field on special teams and I looked down and he had the same identical helmet that I did. I was like 'Well that helmet didn't work.'
"If it's your time, it's your time. It don't matter what helmet they put us in. This game is a violent sport. When you go out and you play hard and you have grown men running 4.4, 4.5 (40-yard dash times) at each other, your brain is going to rattle somewhat. It's a sensitive subject. I don't want to (question) people who have concussions, but at the same time, there's nothing you can do to prevent (them) in this game of football, unless you take the helmet off. This game is a violent game."
While Ward suggested that forcing players to wear a certain helmet is far from a comprehensive solution to the issue of concussions in the NFL, his head coach, Mike Tomlin, said Wednesday that he's in favor of forcing players to wear the helmet that is believed to be most protective.
"The reality is if we have products out there that we know are safer than some of the products being used, then I don't understand why we don't mandate that people use the safest equipment available," Tomlin said. "I understand there's probably some politics and so forth involved in that, but I take a minimalistic approach to looking at some of those things. If we have products out there that are extremely safe, why don't we use them?"