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NFL and NFL Players Association have banned specific helmets for first time



The NFL and NFL Players Association for the first time have banned specific helmets for use, saying those models performed poorly in its annual testing procedures or are no longer supported by their manufacturers.

Ten helmet models have been targeted for phaseout, six immediately and four by the start of the 2019 season. Approximately 200 NFL players wore one of those models in 2017, according to Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of health and safety initiatives.

The NFL has been ranking helmets, from best- to worst-performing based on laboratory testing, for four years. On Monday, teams and players received the 2018 rankings, which are topped by two models from VICIS, a company that was founded in 2013.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen some dynamic changes in the helmet industry,” Miller said. “We’ve seen a number of new helmets enter the market from both new innovators, as well as new helmet models from incumbent companies, which means that there are a number of helmets for players to move to.

“And we’ve begun to see that over the last couple of years, players [are] moving from helmets that rank in the poorly performing areas to those that are ranging closer to the top-performing helmets. We think that is an important move, and we think that will improve player health and safety. And the purpose of continuing to rank the helmets, and the purpose of the joint decision to prohibit certain helmets this year, is to increase that continued movement into better-performing helmets.”

Thirty-four helmets were tested for the 2018 rankings. They came after a season in which NFL players suffered 291 concussions, the highest number on record. NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills called that number “unacceptable” and declared a “a call to action” in February to address it.

League owners agreed in March to a significant rule change that will threaten immediate ejections anytime a player lowers his helmet and initiates contact with another player. The kickoff is under heavy scrutiny after it was determined to cause concussions at five times the rate of an average play, and plans are underway to work with teams to address a spike in concussions caused during training camp scrimmages.

Dr. Jeff Crandall, the chairman of the NFL’s engineering committee, said the helmet testing recreated 24 conditions that typically occur on NFL playing fields. It measures “a number of accelerations and motions of the head,” Crandall said. Helmets are ranked on how they “manage the forces” that players most often come into contact with, he added.

The tests and new policy were carried out in conjunction with Crandall, Miller and Dr. Kristy Arbogast, who is co-scientific director and director of engineering for the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and an adviser to the NFLPA.

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NFL hires Nicholas Theodore to lead head, neck, spine committee



NEW YORK — The NFL has hired Dr. Nicholas Theodore as chairman of the head, neck and spine committee, which plays a major role in the league’s health and safety initiatives.

Theodore is a professor of neurosurgery, orthopedics and biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and director of the Hopkins Neurosurgical Spine Center. He has also served as team neurosurgeon for the Arizona Cardinals and as a consultant to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Coyotes.

Theodore’s research focuses on trauma, brain and spinal cord injuries, minimally invasive surgery, and robotics.

Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer who served as the committee’s interim chairman, said of Theodore: “At the NFL, we are grateful for the medical and scientific experts who shape our health and safety initiatives. … His clinical expertise — in addition to his extensive experience in injury prevention — will further advance our commitment to player health and safety.”

The previous co-chairs were Dr. Richard Ellenbogen and Dr. Hunt Batjer, who had served since 2010.

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Why Pittsburgh Steelers shouldn’t draft Ben Roethlisberger’s successor – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog



PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have dozens of possibilities for their first few draft picks, depending on how their board plays out. They’ve ranked their favorites and will hope one falls to them at No. 28 overall.

Yes, the buzz about the team’s affinity for quarterbacks such as Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph is legitimate. But the Steelers typically do the sensible thing early in the NFL draft. They go for the help. Consider these positional picks in the first rounds from 2009-17: defensive end, center, defensive end, guard, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, cornerback, outside linebacker.

They don’t take a ton of chances.

That’s in part why the case for not selecting a quarterback high in this year’s draft is relatively easy to make.

The quarterback would sit too long: Ben Roethlisberger‘s informal three-year commitment helps the Steelers’ long-range planning but also comes with the promise of solid play at the game’s most important position. Roethlisberger was heating up late last season and brings momentum to 2018. At 36, he’s showing no tangible signs of slowing, and at least three quarterbacks older than him (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers) aren’t slowing much, either. The offense is built around Roethlisberger staying upright, and he has been pretty healthy for much of the past two seasons.

With backup quarterbacks getting minimal reps in practices, a top pick might watch his clipboard collect dust until he loses value or approaches free agency without much of a résumé.

Too many needs elsewhere: Pittsburgh’s roster is one of the most complete in the NFL, but several areas could use a playmaking boost. The Steelers’ best cornerback (Joe Haden) is entering his ninth NFL season. The addition of safety Morgan Burnett is more of a short-term solution, and the Steelers just brought in four safeties for pre-draft visits. Ryan Shazier‘s absence leaves a sizable hole at inside linebacker that Jon Bostic can’t fill alone. The offensive line, though stout, doesn’t have a starter younger than 28.

The Steelers’ offense might be well-stocked positionally, but Pittsburgh faces a different kind of “need” here: It’s necessary to surround Roethlisberger with appropriate talent. The Steelers have a chance with Big Ben in every game (like in 2016, when the Steelers went to the AFC title game with the Eli Rogers/Sammie Coates/Cobi Hamilton combination at No. 2 receiver), but the offense flows better when the playmaker spots are consistently replenished. And with Martavis Bryant a free agent in 2019, receiver is very much an option in this draft.

No reason to give up on Josh Dobbs: The Steelers saw Landry Jones transition from struggling practice player to capable NFL backup, but he needed a few years to get there. Dobbs, last year’s fourth-round pick, has enough ability to watch him develop for another year or two. He might not be the long-term answer at starting quarterback, but the team will likely give him the chance to prove otherwise behind the scenes.

Some teams believe in drafting a signal-caller every year to magnify the game’s most important decision: picking your quarterback. The Steelers might be better off drafting one every other year or longer.

2019 or 2020 makes most sense: The Patriots showed the difficulty of stashing a talented quarterback while the starter keeps performing well. They parted with Jimmy Garoppolo without a succession plan in place.

Roethlisberger will be 38 by the 2020 draft, so the late 30s might be the ideal time to cash in with a newly groomed starter. The Steelers can re-sign Roethlisberger for a few more years (his deal is up in 2020) and give an eventual replacement around two years to prep for the job.

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To trade or not to trade: Denver Broncos will face draft decision – Denver Broncos Blog



ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — You can just book it. At some point next Thursday evening, the Denver Broncos, sitting at No. 5 overall in the NFL draft, will be faced with a decision — to stay or not to stay.

The perfect trade storm is brewing, as multiple quarterbacks sit at the top of draft boards around the league with quarterback-starved teams chasing them. There is also a team — the Cleveland Browns — with two picks in the draft’s top four.

There are also blue-chip players who aren’t quarterbacks — such as Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb. Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson and Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward — who could entice teams to move up because they might just be the four best players in the draft.

And that is the rub for Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway. He signed Case Keenum to a two-year deal last month and has announced, rather emphatically, that Keenum is the team’s starting quarterback for 2018 and is exactly the kind of player he wants.

So, to select a quarterback at No. 5 would really be selecting a player for 2019 and beyond. And that fact could entice a team picking later in the draft that wants a quarterback to see where Elway stands and try to move into Denver’s spot.

But to move out would mean Elway is also likely passing on a chance at one of the draft’s best players. Consider if the Broncos had moved down the last time they picked in the top five — at No. 2 in 2011 — Von Miller would have 83.5 sacks for somebody else.

For his part, Elway has said: “We look at everything. … We go through all of the scenarios, who we think might be there and who we like. It’s all part of the preparation, to get in position to know the guys we want to come away with in the draft. Because it could fall a lot of different ways.”

In his previous seven drafts in his current job, Elway has decided to make trades in the first round in three, including 2012, when he traded twice in the opening round. The Broncos have gotten somewhat mixed results for those deals.

In 2016, the Broncos were coming off a Super Bowl win and traded the last pick of the first round (No. 31) and a third-round pick to Seattle to move up to No. 26 and select quarterback Paxton Lynch. When the Broncos made the deal, the Dallas Cowboys were trying to get in position to select Lynch, according to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

The Broncos also believed at least one other team had interest in selecting Lynch. However, Lynch has lost back-to-back training-camp battles to Trevor Siemian, has started four games and is Keenum’s backup if the Broncos don’t add another quarterback.

In 2015, the Broncos traded guard Manny Ramirez, swapped first-round picks and sent two other picks to the Detroit Lions (a fifth-round pick in 2015 and a fifth-round pick in 2016) to move up from No. 28 to No. 23 and select outside linebacker Shane Ray.

Ray certainly fit the profile as “best player available” at the time — he was coming off a season as the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year for Missouri. But he had seen his stock dip just days before the draft. Ray had been cited for marijuana possession after a traffic stop.

Ray wasn’t detained by police, and they determined he was not impaired, but the incident influenced some teams. Ray is now a starter at outside linebacker and had eight sacks in 2016 to go with one sack least season, when he finished the season on injured reserve after three surgeries on his wrist.

In 2012, the year the Broncos signed Peyton Manning in free agency, Elway traded down twice and eventually out of the first round entirely. The Broncos moved from No. 28 to No. 31 and added an extra pick (a fourth-rounder), then traded the No. 31 pick to Tampa Bay.

In that second round they selected defensive end Derek Wolfe at No. 36. Wolfe, who is coming off neck surgery, has been a mainstay in the defensive line in his six seasons. Injuries have had an impact on his playing time — he hasn’t started 16 games since 2014 — but he has been a front-line player in the team’s defense.

“You always listen [during the draft], you always get calls, you always make calls, you’re trying to make the best moves for the Denver Broncos,” Elway has said. “The bottom line is you want to get those players you really want.”

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