The science fiction-ization of NFL headwear continues. Yesterday it was LaDainian Tomlinson’s facemask; today it’s the gonzo helmet design worn by Brandon Jacobs, Amani Toomer, and several other Giants players during their game against the Jets on Saturday night.
I confess that I totally missed the boat on this one until yesterday afternoon, when ESPN.com photo czar Sean Hintz (the man who deserves the lion’s share of the credit for my Bill Buckner scoop last year) asked me about it. Apparently ESPN.com designer Matthew Walker had mentioned the helmets to Sean, and Sean in turn went and found the two photos I linked to above, which pretty much blew my mind. I mean, I’ve been saying for years that uniform design is showing more and more of a comic book superhero influence, and this is probably the best (or, if you prefer, worst) example yet of that trend.
Fortunately, Giants equipment manager Joe Skiba is a longtime friend of Uni Watch, so I e-mailed him and quickly got a reply. “That’s the Schutt Ion,” he wrote. “It’s a brand-new helmet that’s the next evolution of the DNA.” When I asked if any other Jints players were wearing it besides Jacobs and Toomer, he provided the following list: Shaun O’Hara, Grey Ruegamer, Guy Whimper, Jay Alford, Marcus Bell, and David Diehl.
You can see Diehl wearing the Ion here, in a photo from the Giants’ previous game against the Ravens. The weird thing is that Jacobs is also in that photo, and he’s not wearing the Ion there. Once I started looking at more photos, I found that Jacobs didn’t even wear the Ion for the entire Jets game — you can see him wearing a conventional helmet here and here. More intriguingly, I found no mention of the Ion on the Schutt web site.
So is the Ion (which, incidentally, appears to have a rather innovative facemask mounting system) just a developmental prototype? Are the players just trying it out for a few plays here and there? “Brandon was giving it a test drive,” said Skiba. “It’s in the testing phase, but it’s NOCSAE-approved for field use. We will wear it in the regular season.” So get set to see plenty more of the weirdest-looking helmet to appear on an NFL gridiron since the days of Willie Lanier.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Does anyone have a photo of the new Rutgers jerseys? I linked to a wire service photo a few weeks ago but now it’s gone blank. … Yesterday I asked about this photo, which brought the following response from Ray McCormick: “As I recall, the only instance of NHL teams having corporate sponsorship on their practice jerseys in the 1980s was that Molson Breweries had their name or logo on practice jerseys of all the Canadian-based teams. The only exception was the Quebec Nordiques, who were owned by then-rival brewery Carling-O’Keefe. I remember seeing these jerseys on nightly sportscasts, where footage of various Canadian teams practicing was shown on a regular basis. The pic of the Lemielin card is precisely what I recall seeing back in those days.” … “The USA Eagles, the US national rugby team, unveiled their World Cup uniforms [that’s them on the left] on Sunday,” reports Eric Bangeman. “Made by Kooga, they’re actually a lot nicer than any of the other RWC uniforms seen so far. Here’s last year’s version for comparison.” … Think I harp too much on the encroachment of advertising? Look here. … Mike Brodsky, winner of last week’s Helmet Hut raffle, reports that he chose this as his prize. Congrats again. … Oh dear. … Detroit Free Press readers (now there’s a dwindling species) have chosen the Red Wings uni as their favorite local uniform. … Major thrill last night, as I got an e-mail out of the blue from one of the most storied of all NFL equipment managers, Frank Pupello (inventor of the Pupello pouch, don’tcha know). In-depth interview to follow soon-ishly.