NFL ends one helmet rule, opens door to Cowboys throwback uniforms


The NFL announced on Thursday, June 24 that the one helmet rule would be retired following the upcoming season. For Cowboys fans, this means a likelihood of seeing throwback uniforms on the field for the first time since 2012. The rule won’t go into effect until the beginning of the 2022 season.

Whether the ‘Boys will opt for vintage white helmets with the iconic blue star or try out an entirely different design is still up in the air. Teams will have until July 31, 2021 to inform the NFL of the decision to use alternative helmet designs.

Since the one helmet rule went into effect, a handful of teams have skirted the rule book. Teams that use the same color helmet for their regular uniform as they would for a throwback would swap logos on the helmet without violating NFL uniform policy. The Cowboys, who have worn silver helmets since 1964, were prevented from wearing their white throwback helmets by this rule.

The motivation for the change in rules is likely all about the fans. Allowing teams to wear alternate helmets and corresponding uniforms helps get fans fired up, particularly for big games. The Cowboys traditionally wear throwback uniforms for their annual Thanksgiving Day game when millions of football fans are watching.

Eliminating the one helmet rule opens the possibility of marketing new merchandise like jerseys and other apparel. At a time when TV viewership is in decline -and is thus a threat to the largest single revenue source the league has- it makes sense to find alternate ways to bring in income.

Teams won’t be able to grab just any old helmet, though. The change in rules is accompanied by requirements teams must meet in order to use alternate headgear.

Teams must purchase helmets for each player and have them fitted at the same time as the regular helmet. The alternate helmet must be the same model as the player wears with the regular uniform. The helmets must also be worn and used in practice prior to wearing them in a game.

The NFL created the one helmet rule to address head injuries players were suffering. The league found that new helmets that were not broken in were less safe than well-worn helmets. The requirements teams must meet to wear alternates reflects the league’s intention to protect player safety.

One consideration each team will need to make between now and the end of July is whether purchasing and fitting helmets for the team is financially feasible. NFL players are provided with helmets and uniforms by the team. Should the team decide to use throwback helmets, they will need to purchase an entirely new set.

Professional NFL players helmets can cost from $300 to more than $1,400 each. Teams can have up to 90 players on the roster at the start of training camp, each of whom must have a helmet available. Cash-strapped teams may choose to stick with one helmet to save money.

For teams that want to show off vintage unis, the window of opportunity is closing quickly. Teams have until July 31 to submit plans for the alternate helmet. It’s unlikely many teams will swap in a radical new design for the 2022 season, but the chance to unveil a trick new look may be something teams will explore for the future.

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