J.J. Watt says he might not play if NFL requires face shields in 2020

Chris Cwik

The NFL and NFLPA are still in the midst of negotiating the necessary safety protocols needed to carry on with a 2020 season. But if the two sides agree on one particular safety measure, the league could lose one of its biggest stars.

Houston Texans star J.J. Watt has no interest in playing if the NFL makes players wear face shields in 2020. Watt, 31, told Pro Football Talk he wouldn’t be on the field if face shields are required.

“My second year in the league, I thought it would be cool,” Watt said. “I put a visor on my helmet. I was like, ‘It looks so cool, I want to put a visor on.’ I had it on for about three periods of practice and I said, ‘Take this sucker off, I’m going to die out here.’ Just the face one.

“So now you want to put something around my mouth? No. You can keep that. If that comes into play, I don’t think you’re going to see me out there on the field.”

The NFL has reportedly tested different types of face masks in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus during the season. In May, Thom Mayer, the NFL’s medical director, told Adam Schefter the league would likely recommend some type of face mask in 2020.

As Watt’s comment indicates, not all players would follow that recommendation. That could be an issue for the league, as masks have proven to reduce coronavirus transmission. Watt will be engaged with other players in tight spaces on nearly every play. If he, or someone he plays against, contracts the virus, the refusal to wear a face shield could make it easier for the virus to spread.

Watt is a star player, and one of the biggest names in the league. Losing him for the season would hurt the NFL, but the season being suspended due to an outbreak would be even worse.

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