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Saturday, May 18, 2024

NFL’s Expanded Helmet Options Come With a Perk: More Merch

  • Teams can now add a third helmet design to their overall look.
  • The league’s decision will expand teams’ merchandising options for fans.
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL’s array of helmet designs is expanding once again, and it is happening as the league and union say they are making further strides in helmet safety. 

The league told all 32 teams last week that it is once again expanding its uniform policy, and it will allow teams to add a third helmet design to their overall looks. The four teams already going through a uniform redesign for the 2024 season—the Broncos, Jets, Lions, and Texans—will be able to take advantage of the expanded measure immediately. The rest must wait until ’25, but they must inform the league of their intent to utilize an alternate color helmet by May 1 of this year. 

The expansion follows the NFL’s shift in 2022 away from its “one shell” rule after nearly a decade, a policy that previously limited teams to a single helmet. The underlying premise of the prior rule was a belief that a single helmet was better for player safety than multiple ones. But several teams steadily lobbied for a change, and once it took effect, it opened a wave of popular throwbacks back on the field, such as the Buccaneers’ creamsicle design (above) and the Eagles’ Kelly green look. Expanding that range of alternate and throwback designs even further will almost certainly enlarge the range of merchandising options the NFL and individual teams will be able to offer fans. 

The four latest new uniform unveilings for the 2024 season are scheduled to happen over the next eight days. Soon after the league announcement last week, the Broncos and Texans publicly noted the shift on social media, signaling that a third helmet design is likely part of those forthcoming events.

There are still various stipulations to the expanded league measure, including that the second and third helmets can be worn only with optional uniforms such as alternates, throwbacks, and Color Rush models. Those restrictions differ from the more liberal mixing and matching of helmets and uniforms frequently seen in college football. 

Safety Measures

A day before the league’s announcement of the helmet policy shift, the NFL and NFL Players Association said they are introducing 12 new helmet models for the 2024 season, a record total that includes five that “tested better than any helmet ever worn in the league.” Among the new helmets approved for play this year are eight position-specific ones designed for the particular impacts of where they are used.

Six helmets that were previously approved, and had previously been among top-performing models when first introduced, are now prohibited.

“We’re proud to see so many new helmets continue the rapid rate of improvement we’ve seen over the past decade,” said Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president. 

Those shifts arrive as the league has faced a long-running issue around player concussions, which numbered 219 last year, up slightly from the 213 in 2022, blunting prior progress. 

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