For many years NFL players had the right to choose whether they wanted to wear knee and thigh pads in regulation games. However, in 2013, the NFL made the pads mandatory.
With the start of the 2015 NFL season just weeks away, the NFL Football Operations issued a reminder for teams regarding Rule 5, Section 4, Article 3:
“All players must wear the equipment and uniform apparel listed below, which must be of a suitably protective nature, must be designed and produced by a professional manufacturer, and must not be cut, reduced in size, or otherwise altered unless for medical reasons approved in advance by the Commissioner. During pregame team warm-ups, players may omit certain protective equipment at their option, except that helmets, shoulder pads, thigh pads, and knee pads must be worn.”
Reportedly, NFL uniform inspectors will be present on the field before the start of each game to be sure the players are compliant and are in the proper gear. Additionally, the inspectors will remain accessible to the sidelines throughout the game to make sure the players are wearing the required safety equipment.
If a player is found not to be wearing the required gear, he will not be allowed to enter the game. Any player who refuses to comply could be removed from the field of play until the violation is fixed.
For many years, players complained that the extra pads made them slower and opted to do without. When the rule went into effect for the 2013 season, some players were not happy:
“I hate that,” former Raiders linebacker Travis Goethel said. “I don’t want that at all. I don’t like having anything restricting my movement in my legs. If you get hit in the thigh, it really doesn’t do too much to help you out.”
With concussions becoming an increased problem in the NFL, the risk for any extra injuries by not wearing the required pads is something that the NFL cannot afford to gamble with.