Reporting Mike Fisher
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DALLAS (105.3 THE FAN) – The Dallas Cowboys’ traditional wearing of white “throwback” helmets isn’t really football-driven; it’s marketing driven. And now comes the NFL’s ruling against the use of “alternate” helmets, which isn’t really safety-driven; it’s PR-driven.
A ruling – characterized as a “recommendation” by some but taken as an order by the Cowboys – has been handed down by the NFL’s Head, Neck, and Spine Committee and the Player Safety Advisory Panel. As first reported by ProFootballTalk.com, throwback uniforms (portrayed as respectful bows to the league’s past but truly motivated by the merchandise sales they fuel) can remain.
But throwback helmets are out.
Why? An NFL source tells me the league’s position is that throwback helmets are so rarely used that they are not fully “broken in and fully ready” to protect their users.
It is not a coincidence that this directive comes in the wake of the $765 million concussion-related settlement the NFL recently reached with more than 4,500 suing former players. And certainly, safety is infinitely more important than the merchandise sales lost by the Buccaneers when they don’t wear their orange “Bucco Bruce” uniforms on Sept. 29 against the Cardinals, or if the Cowboys lose revenue because they will not put their white helmets on display before a national TV audience in their thanksgiving meeting with the Raiders.
A Cowboys source tells me that the club hasn’t yet decided if it will scrap the throwback look altogether or if it will simply combine their everyday silver helmets with the blue-and-white jerseys and pants that recall the club’s early 1960s uniform.
But this much is true: Every year during this “throwback era,” in the weeks leading up to the Thanksgiving game, the Cowboys players practice using the special white helmets. Last year, I chronicled Dallas wearing its white helmets in practice on Oct. 17 — 37 days in advance of the 2012 Thanksgiving game. Those practice weeks are spent for the purpose of meeting the exact same “broken-in and fully-ready” standards being demanded by the league.
And that 37-day period of “breaking in”? That’s more than twice the amount of time the NFL allowed for this year’s Cowboys to prepare the usual helmets from the July 21 beginning of training camp to the Aug. 4 use of those helmets in the Week 1 preseason game against the Dolphins in Canton.
In the NFL, the safety component should be as ever-present as the marketing and PR components. In reality, the Cowboys’ white “throwback” helmets were always about appearance…and the elimination of them are, too.
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