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Player Safety: Helmets & Pads

Discussion in 'College Football' started by ScriptOhio, Apr 18, 2018.

  1. ScriptOhio

    ScriptOhio Everybody is somebody else's weirdo.

    New shoulder pads, no longer an NFL afterthought, could save stars like Luck, Rodgers

    XTECH's shoulder pads fast becoming favorite of coaches and players, including draft prospects Josh Allen, Josh Rosen

    Urban Meyer's reaction was priceless.

    The Ohio State head coach's face was a mix of panic and confusion as he leapt away from the desk where a man he had just met was brandishing a helmet in his left hand. The man was Bob Broderick, a former New York Giants ballboy and longtime marketing consultant who is the founder of innovative shoulder pad and protective equipment company XTECH, and he had just hoisted the helmet above his head to make a point.

    Broderick's right hand was already tucked between two thin pieces of patent-protected, scientifically-designed foam and in an instant the entrepreneur was slamming the helmet, quite violently, across the desk into the padding, scattering bottled waters and other items to the floor. Broderick quickly pulled his right hand up off the desk – clearly no worse for wear – and extended it to Meyer, who shook it somewhat sheepishly, still trying to grasp how Broderick had escaped without so much as a bruise or scrape. Turns out the combination of that foam, known as XRD Technology – the brainchild of an MIT-trained chemical engineer – and the design concepts Broderick and his partner Ted Monica, a former equipment manager in the NFL and USFL who once oversaw shoulder pad design at Riddell, had created was a perfect marriage. And Meyer had just become the latest XTECH convert, joining a legion of players, coaches and NFL, college and high school programs.


    Left to right: Ted Monica of XTECH, Rutgers coach Chris Ash, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and Bob Broderick of XTECH.

    Player health and safety is a constant buzzword across the football world, but it's generally couched in terms of helmets and head and neck injuries. Just this week the NFL and NFLPA announced 10 models of helmets they were banishing – including the headgear of choice for Tom Brady, perhaps the greatest player in the history of the sport – and sensitivities are heightened following a 2017 season in which a succession of star quarterbacks were felled by what amounted to season-ending injuries, whether it be Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Carson Palmer or Sam Bradford. Shoulders – those of $20M-a-year quarterbacks in particular – have never been more vital to the fabric and finances of the game, yet shoulder pads have long been something of an afterthought, with many players unsure of which model they wear and long-accustomed to simply throwing on whatever the equipment guy hands them at the start of the season.

    Changing attitudes

    Perhaps that is slowly, finally changing, as Broderick, Monica and their growing stable of investors, including former Super Bowl-winning coach Brian Billick, are convinced that this technology has the capacity to make the game much safer. They believe that Rodgers, had he been in their model, would not have suffered as severe a collarbone break last season, and they are eager to get an audience with him, while Luck, who has essentially missed two seasons due to shoulder issues, is scheduled to meet with Monica in two weeks and has long been considering switching to XTECH for his comeback.

    Meyer, for his part, after speaking with Broderick and Monica for a few more minutes about their technology, promptly called his equipment manager and medical staff right there on the spot (Rutgers coach Chris Ash and then-Temple and now Baylor coach Matt Rhule were also in the small office at the time, their teams already in XTECH). Two weeks later, XTECH was on campus in Columbus, Ohio, meeting with Meyer and sizing players. Soon, roughly 80 percent of the Buckeyes would be in the pads. Josh Allen and Josh Rosen, two of the top quarterbacks in this year's draft, are big believers in the product. Players on 29 of 32 NFL teams now wear them, as well, as do more than 250 colleges and over 200 high schools (including Trevor Lawrence, the top-ranked 2018 prep quarterback who is headed to Clemson, and Taron Vincent, a five-star recruit headed to Ohio State whose father, Troy, just happens to be a former All-Pro defensive back who is the head of the NFL's football operations department).

    "You can go through the matrix and talk about all of the technology and the science and the testing numbers," said Billick, who was in the room as well when Meyer was initially spooked. "But when you see that demonstration with the helmet – and that's real, that's not some stunt – that shows you the quality of these pads. And I'll challenge any other equipment company to come in with their hands, and we'll do it with our pads and you can try it with yours.

    "I've known Bob for years and when he brought the product to me it was in the development stage and he was deciding whether he was going to take this on or not, and he said, 'What do you think?' And I say this all of the time, with the concussion protocols and rule changes we are taking the head and helmet out of the game, but that means even more stress on the shoulders and those injuries. And with this XRD Technology and XTECH patented design, basically these are custom-fitted, lightweight pads that allow for greater range of motion and protection.

    "This is where pads need to be and obviously they are evolving in other sports as well, and when I saw this product I said, 'I'm all in.' You ask players what gloves they wear and what shoes they wear and they can tell you exactly what in any conditions or cold weather or whatever. And then you ask them which shoulder pads they wear, and you get a blank stare. The shoulder pads really hadn't changed in 25 years, but they are now, and they need to."


    Left to right: Former Ravens head coach Brian Billick, Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, XTECH's Ted Monica, Rutgers head coach Chris Ash, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and Bob Broderick of XTECH.

    Entire article:
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  2. ScriptOhio

    ScriptOhio Everybody is somebody else's weirdo.

    Shoulder pads of years gone by:

  3. sparcboxbuck

    sparcboxbuck What happened to my ¤cash?

    When I was younger I thought that shoulder pads were just ice coolers on their shoulders.

    I was really young, but obviously old enough to watch football and remember thinking that.

    They were ginormous.
  4. ScriptOhio

    ScriptOhio Everybody is somebody else's weirdo.



    We desire to play the game as tough as it is meant to be played, while also making the game safer."


    In the spring of 2014, fresh off a Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made waves in the coaching world by releasing an instructional video that showcased rugby-style tackling methods. While many coaches had been exploring these techniques, which place an emphasis on making contact with the shoulder instead of leading with the facemask, Carroll’s outspoken embrace of the methods surprised many, given his defense’s physical reputation.

    Carroll stated his intentions near the beginning of the video, proclaiming "the basis of our passion in this video is to maintain the physical integrity of the game while developing safer tackling techniques."

    As viewers can quickly see, Carroll outlines the way his players are taught to bring down ball-carriers, using their shoulders to make contact below the waist and stop the runner's momentum. While he makes it clear that his players are still taught to deliver a hit when able, the concept of wrapping up – a skill seemingly forgotten in the previous decade in favor of launching to make the most violent contact possible – is emphasized in Carroll’s system.

    "I believe that’s how the game was originally played when the guys were wearing leather helmets or the helmets without the face masks," former Seahawks assistant head coach Rocky Seto, the man Carroll credits with developing the technique, told in 2016. "You didn’t want to put your nose right into someone’s chest or knee. You’re going to get hurt. So that’s just what the rugby guys do, as well. They try to get contact with the shoulders. So that’s the biggest principle."

    With multiple Super Bowl appearances and countless Pro Bowlers on that side of the ball, Carroll’s credentials couldn’t be questioned. Coaches at every level to take a second look at this style of play, given the considerable scrutiny placed on concussions and player safety that remains to this day. Two of those coaches were Urban Meyer and his new defensive coordinator, Chris Ash.

    As reported by Jon Solomon of CBS Sports,

    Urban Meyer wanted nothing to do with rugby-style tackling at Ohio State. The idea of defenders using their shoulders to tackle, changing target points on a ball carrier and emphasizing wrapping up around the legs wasn’t an easy sell to Meyer. Like so many coaches, Meyer had been taught that tacklers should force their heads across the chest of a ball carrier -- the “head across the bow” model that represented Tackling 101 for so long.

    But Ohio State defensive coordinator Chris Ash pushed to change techniques after the 2013 season. Ash watched Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s video of the Hawk Tackle, which sells the rugby tackle as safer for the head and more efficient to bring down ball carriers. Ash studied his past and present defenses and realized many of his players used rugby tackling anyway, not the technique being coached.

    The idea of rugby tackling “was one that I fought at first and I said no, we’re not going to do that,” Meyer said. “Chris Ash is very persistent, he’s a very good coach, and (like) good coaches who really believe in something, stayed on me. … I listened. I did as much research as I could and ultimately we jumped in. Tremendous success right out of the get-go. You could see the difference.”

    As any defensive coach will tell you, though, teaching Carroll’s system isn’t as easy as it sounds. Players must rep these movements ad nauseam until they become second-nature. The good news, however, is that players can replicate nearly every element of the tackle without pads or helmets, given that they’re no longer required to stick their face in the runner’s numbers to bring them down.

    But with countless restrictions placed on practice type and time at the collegiate level, coaches have had to adapt their systems of teaching to match the time spent with their athletes. At Ohio State, the tackling circuit begun by Ash has evolved but largely remains in place under the watchful eye of Greg Schiano and the rest of the defensive staff. While no position group emphasizes these techniques more than the linebackers, every member of the Buckeye defense is well-schooled in the rugby-style methods.

    The first place to start is a drill known as ‘Cheek to Cheek,” as players get comfortable wrapping up just above the knees and placing the side of their helmet on the other cheek of their opponent.


    Not every takedown will be that clean, however, especially when chasing a runner down the sideline. For this scenario, the Buckeyes employ a ‘Wrap and Roll’ drill that asks the players to just that to a player streaking down the boundary, replacing the ball-carrier with a bag.


    In the past, players may have tried to simply blast a ball-carrier without anywhere to go, making a statement by sending him flying into the benches. But such a play puts the tackler at great risk, as it puts their head in front of a player running full speed and creating a violent collision that can be avoided.

    Similarly, the drill trains players to make a play when they aren’t in a position to lay a big hit on the runner. As seen below, Tuf Borland is able to get a hand on the back as he rolls out of bounds, limiting the yardage attained by the offense with minimal impact to both players.

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  5. ExpatAkronite

    ExpatAkronite Cascadia

  6. Jake

    Jake They took the bar! ‘17 The Deuce Champ '18 The Deuce Champ Fantasy Baseball Champ

    Another day where I'm glad we have Urban Meyer.

  7. OSU_Buckguy

    OSU_Buckguy Senior

    ExpatAkronite likes this.
  8. cincibuck

    cincibuck You kids stay off my lawn!

    Way back in the early 80s, when I was just begining to coach track and cross country I saw a demonstration of a high-density rubber material. You could, and I did, put your hand flat on a table, cover it with a pad of this material and whack it with a wooden mallet as hard as you were willing to and other than pressure, you felt nothing at all - no pain, no bruise. It was amazing - but it was heavy. I put a pair of inserts into my running shoes and they worked - BUT - they probably doubled the weight of my New Balance shoes. The product didn't go anywhere with runners because of the weight I suppose, so I wonder if this is an improved version of the stuff
  9. Thump

    Thump Hating the environment since 1994

    Weighing-down NFL players would not be a bad thing.
  10. LordJeffBuck

    LordJeffBuck Illuminatus Emeritus Staff Member

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