May 19 (UPI) -- The NFL is testing prototypes for helmet facemasks, which could include N95 or surgical material, prior to the 2020 season as a way to defend against the coronavirus pandemic.
NFL Players Association medical director Thom Mayer spoke about the project during an appearance Monday on The Adam Schefter Podcast. The players union is also working with NFL engineers and sports equipment company Oakley to test the prototypes.
"Back in early March, I had suggested that we should consider novel and emerging ways to handle the helmets and the facemasks 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 the NFL will "probably" receive a recommendation to use such masks to protect players. New barriers could cover a player's entire facemask. Many players already play with their eyes covered with Oakley-made visors, which are transparent.
Mayer said the tests involve fixes for when masks fog up. Oakley has designed anti-fog sunglasses for the military.
"They've got some prototypes," Mayer said. "They're doing really good work. 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."
The NFL season is still on schedule, despite most major sports leagues being suspended due to the pandemic. The 2020 pre-season slate is set to begin with the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Dallas Cowboys at 8 p.m. EDT Aug. 6, in Canton, Ohio. The regular season is scheduled to start Sept. 10.
Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 NFL teams Friday and said they are allowed to reopen team facilities -- with restrictions -- Tuesday if state and local governments allow it. The league closed all team facilities in March due to the pandemic. Players are still banned from the facilities unless they had been receiving treatment or rehabbing an injury before the facilities closed. No more than 50 percent of the team's employees can return and the total capacity must not exceed 75 people.