While the NFL and the Players Association continue to figure out the necessary safety protocols for the upcoming season, Houston Texans’ star J.J. Watt made it clear this week that he plans to opt out of the season if any of those measures include a face shield.
Watt told Pro Football Talk on Wednesday that he’s previously had experience playing with his face partially covered and wasn’t a fan.
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“My second year in the league I thought it’d be cool, I put a visor on my helmet,” he explained. “I was like, ‘It looks so cool, I wanna put a visor on.’ I had it on for about three periods of practice and I said, ‘Take this sucker off I’m gonna die out here.’ … So now you’re gonna put something around my mouth? You can keep that. If that comes into play, I don’t think you’re gonna see me on the field.”
Watt’s absence on the field may be a reality for the Texans.
In May, ESPN reported that the league was working with sports equipment companies to test prototypes for protective masks for players to wear on the field.
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It’s not clear if other players in the league share the same feelings about face masks as Watt but the Players Association has been vocal this week against the NFL’s safety protocol so close to the start of camp.
Trouble began over the preseason schedule last week when the NFLPA voted unanimously to recommend that the league cancel preseason all together just days after the NFL agreed to cancel the first and last games of the preseason.
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NFLPA president JC Tretter then criticized the league for being “unwilling to prioritize player safety.” Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Malik Jackson joined in but called out both the league and the Players Association on Wednesday for a lack of “safety” and “financial” guarantees.