A new NFL safety rule that requires players to wear the same fitted helmet all season means the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't be able to wear their orange throwback uniforms as planned this month.
The uniforms, which feature a white helmet with the “Bucco Bruce” logo, were scheduled to be worn Sept. 29 against the Arizona Cardinals. Instead, the Bucs must wear their standard uniforms, which use a pewter-colored helmet, the team announced Tuesday.
The guideline was recently implemented based on the strong recommendation by the NFL's Head, Neck and Spine Committee as well as the Player Safety Advisory Panel, the team said in a news release.
Once helmets are properly fitted at the beginning of the season, the league does not want them changed.
“The outside of the helmet can be modified by removing or replacing decals, as long as it does not affect the integrity of the helmet,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told NFL.com.
The Chicago Bears wore alternate uniforms this past Sunday, but removed the “C” decals from their helmets. The Buffalo Bills also wore throwback unforms, but used the 1960s-style “buffalo” decal on the regular white helmets.
The Bucs' throwback game became a popular addition to the schedule five years ago. This year's date was announced in July, and the league memo on the rule reportedly went out to teams in August.
“There simply was no acceptable way to meet the requirements of the new policy while staying true to the spirit of our throwback theme,” Buccaneers chief operating officer Brian Ford said in a news release.
“We will continue to explore options with the league office for bringing back this fan favorite in future seasons.”
Alternate and throwback jerseys have been lucrative for teams in recents years, and the Bucs likely won't be the only team affected by the helmet rule. Others who switch helmets for alternate uniforms include the New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins.
The NFL recently reached a $765 million settlement over concussion-related brain injuries among its 18,000 retired players, agreeing to compensate victims, pay for medical exams and underwrite research. Over the course of the legal dispute, the league has taken extraordinary steps to prevent head injuries, including fines and suspensions for helmet-to-helmet hits.
McCarthy said the change was reviewed and approved by San Francisco 49ers co-chairman John York, chairman of the league's health and safety ownership committee.
The Head, Neck and Spine Committee is chaired by neurologists Hunt Batjer and Richard Ellenbogen. The player safety panel is chaired by former coach John Madden and safety Ronnie Lott.
Tampa Bay's throwback game this year coincided with a Hispanic Heritage celebration, scheduled as part of the NFL's Hispanic Heritage Month. Activities related to that theme will continue as scheduled, the team said.