The days of NFL players opting not to wear thigh pads or knee pads may end with this year's Super Bowl, according to league and team sources.
The injury trends of quad injuries and knee bruises will be a major focal point of discussion for the competition committee to bring a recommendation on mandatory thigh and knee pad usage to the owners in March.
There also is a possibility that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will simply order the changes for the 2011 season without a vote of the owners.
The NFL has already commissioned equipment makers to produce uniform leg pants that would incorporate the lightest, safest thigh and knee pads -- with the pads stitched into the pants rather than inserted and removed by the players.
Owners, general managers and coaches have expressed frustration that players who desire to play at the fastest possible speed by removing all leg pads suffer injuries that cause them to miss playing time. The discussion has been ongoing and acknowledged publicly by Goodell and other league officials.
Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings missed a game late this season when he banged knees on a handoff from Tarvaris Jackson. Michael Vick required a special thigh protection for the Philadelphia Eagles' first-round playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.
The mandatory use of hip pads also is under discussion. But there is a more specific emphasis on the research focused on thigh and knee pads because of injury research, a source said.
Chris Mortensen is ESPN's Senior NFL Analyst.