When the Chiefs brought out a new, state-of-the-art football helmet by Vicis this offseason, receiver Chris Conley saw it and had one thought.
“Whenever they bring something new and shiny in, I’m like ‘Can I get one?’” Conley said with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘It’s a new helmet, I just cut my hair, can I get one?’ And they were like ‘Sure, try it out.’”
Then he watched a video of the helmet in action. It was strapped to a crash-test dummy that was then run into a wall at 100 mph.
“I don’t expect to be doing that,” Conley said, clearly amused at the thought. “But the dummy was all right (afterward).”
This video helped sell him on a product that could potentially make football safer if it catches on. Concussions have been a concern in the game for years now, so much so that youth football numbers have taken a hit due to parental concern.
But if players buy into the helmet, which features a soft outer shell paired with an underlying layer of columns designed to mitigate collisions from multiple directions, and vouch for its effectiveness, some of that concern could be mitigated.
“It’s actually really comfortable,” Conley said. “I think whenever you change any equipment, it takes a little bit of time for you to get used to it.”
One of the reasons for that, Conley said, is because the Vicis helmet is larger than normal helmets.
“The helmet is big, and I think that’s one of the things that people first recognize when you put it on — it’s shaped differently because it works differently,” Conley said. “It actually works the opposite way other helmets work, as the shell on the outside is soft and some of the material on the inside is harder, whereas other helmets, there’s a hard shell on the outside and the material on the inside is softer. So it kind of works backwards.”
Conley wore the helmet throughout the Chiefs’ recently-completed offseason practices, and he gives it a thumbs up so far.
“I haven’t felt any of the impacts from when I hit the ground or anything, so in my mind, that’s the helmet working,” Conley said. “But we’ll find out in training camp.”
Conley won’t be the only Chief testing it out. He estimates that 10-15 players, including quarterback Alex Smith, running back Spencer Ware and center Mitch Morse, will all pilot the helmet during training camp.
Not incoincidentally, all four players have had concussion, or at least head trauma, scares in games over the past two years.
“All the test information on it has been great, and I’m really interested to see how it plays this year,” Conley said of the helmet. “We’re just people, like everyone else, and when football ends, we will have lives, just like everyone else and we want quality of life. And if there’s any way that we can extend or greaten that quality of life by wearing a different helmet that reduces trauma, we’re going to do it.
“Some guys want to look good, some guys want quality of life.”
That’s not to say Conley doesn’t like the look of the helmet, however.
“I like it, I think it looks pretty good,” Conley said. “So it’s a win-win for me.”