NFL engineers and sports equipment company Oakley are testing prototypes of modified face masks that might contain surgical or N95 material, the NFL Players Association's medical director said Monday.
Speaking on Monday's The Adam Schefter Podcast, Thom Mayer said "there will probably be a recommendation" that the NFL use such masks to protect players from the coronavirus when the league returns to play.
"Back in early March, I had suggested that we should consider novel and emerging ways to handle the helmets and the face masks and the spread of the virus," Mayer said. "And these guys, the bioengineers that we use and that the league uses -- Oakley, as you may or may not know, does all the face visors for the league under contract -- these guys got the bit between their teeth."
Mayer said he isn't sure exactly how the modifications would look, but he acknowledged that it is realistic to think the new designs could cover a player's entire face mask and that the engineers are working on everything such a design might entail.
"They've got some prototypes. They're doing really good work," he said. "Some of them, when you first look at them, you think, 'Gosh, no' 'cause you're not used to seeing it. You're just not used to seeing it. But they're looking at every issue you can imagine, including when it fogs up. What do we do with that? But these guys are used to dealing with this stuff."
Oakley has experience designing durable eyeglasses that don't fog up for use by the military, Mayer said.
Mayer also advised players who might have elevated risk factors to be aware of doing everything possible to prevent exposure to the coronavirus.
"For a player like that, getting the helmet off, putting a mask on right afterward, maintaining social distancing when not in the field as much as possible, using single-use hydration -- whether water, Gatorade, whatever it might be -- I mean, just every little detail," he said.
"Anybody who's got a risk, I would advise them to be zealous, religious and, frankly, almost maniacally committed to minimizing the chance of spreading the virus."