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NFL rule change clears the way for Patriots throwback jerseys, finally

....most likely in 2023 or later, but nonetheless!

New York Jets v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Today we’re mostly happy to bring you the most classically NFL of NFL updates: the kind that should be cause for great joy and celebration across the land, and objectively speaking, rules, and nonetheless contains a bit of a buzzkill from a New England Patriots perspective. For now, anyway.

On Thursday afternoon, at approximately the same time most of us are contemplating getting an afternoon coffee, or an afternoon cookie, or second lunch, the NFL finally issued the memo we’ve all been waiting for since Roger Goodell and friends earned their stripes as the No-Fun League in 2013 and made the rule that alternate helmets were banned under the ludicrous justification of player safety. Like, yeah totally Roger, this game is very safe and nobody ever gets hurt unnecessarily, but the moment someone puts on an Oilers helmet, they’re a ticking time bomb. Got it. Good job, good effort.

Anyway, making fun of the commissioner for being a feckless dolt with stains in his Hanes is kind of punching down at this point, so let’s get to the meat of the memo that finally paves the way for our beloved Pat Patriot helmets and red throwbacks to grace the gridiron once again, like they did when the Patriots were most well-known for being the historic punching bags of the ‘85 Bears (and of course, much later on when we had but a wee 3 Super Bowls and had to reboot the dynasty to version 2.0).

From Pro Football Talk:

In a memo sent to teams this afternoon, the league announced a new policy that will give teams the opportunity to use two different helmets starting in the 2022 season, a popular move with fans who like alternate and throwback uniforms.

Teams can pair the second helmet with alternate, throwback or Color Rush uniforms, so long as they follow all league policies on ensuring that all alternate helmets are properly fitted, and that all players are provided with sufficient opportunity to wear the alternate helmets in practice prior to wearing them in a game.

Player safety was the primary reason the NFL previously told teams to stop using alternate helmets: Teams wanted every player to have one helmet that fit him properly, and not to alter it during the season. But the new policy addresses those concerns by requiring teams to have a new set of alternate helmets for every player on the roster, to ensure that all alternate helmets are the same make, model and size as the player’s primary helmet, and by requiring players to get fitted for both their primary and alternate helmets at the same time in training camp.

This is excellent news, unless you happen to be one of those Buzz Killingtons that think “tHe ThRoWbAcK jErSeYs RePrEsEnT fAiLuRe” and only wants to see dynasty-era unis forever.

Unfortunately for the pro-throwbacks crowd, which seems like most of us given Pats Twitter’s collective exuberance on Thursday afternoon, there’s a snag, and it’s about as typical NFL “you didn’t put new covers on your TPS reports” as it gets.

Teams have to decide by July 31st whether they’re going to be using an alternate helmet in 2022. The deadline for teams to decide if they wanted new uniforms for the 2022 season, though, is long gone, so unless the Patriots submitted a red and white uniform and got it approved previously (which seems highly unlikely), they won’t be able to go full throwbacks until at least 2023.

Here’s how PFT put it:

According to the memo disseminated on Thursday by the NFL, all teams must decide and declare by July 31 whether they’ll be using a second helmet in 2022. Complicating matters for the various teams is that “the notice date for 2022 uniform changes has passed and no new uniforms can be developed for the 2022 season, other than those previously approved by the League Office for the 2022 season.”

This means that, for example, the Patriots won’t be able to adopt for 2022 an alternate uniform based on their Pat Patriot throwbacks, making the return of a white helmet impractical before 2023. Ditto for the Tampa Bay creamsicle uniforms, the light blue Oilers helmet as an alternative to the Titans’ uniform, and any other alternate helmets that make no sense without an alternate set of jerseys and pants.

If the Patriots did want to pair up the Pat Patriot helmet with any of their current uniforms, though, this seems relevant, at least in a Madden “Choose Uniforms” sort of way:

Moreover, it won’t limit teams from matching existing throwbacks or Color Rush uniforms with different helmets than what they had intended. The Steelers could use a yellow helmet with an alternate look, for example. The Cowboys could adopt a white helmet. The Seahawks could, if they choose to burn even more retinas, introduce a helmet with a color that matches their hideous lime green alternative uniforms.

However it plays out, any alternate helmets must be disclosed by July 31 — and any that require uniforms other than those already in place for 2022 will become impractical and most likely not applicable to 2023.

Also, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t periodically remind everyone about Brian and Steven’s point in the conversation below:

Enjoy your weekend and be excellent to each other, friends.