The safest helmet in football is set to make its NFL debut next season
The Vicis Zero1 marks a significant change from current helmet designs
Player safety is one of the biggest issues facing football at all levels right now. The NFL obviously has the most high-profile bout with figuring out a way to make the game safer for players, and the league may be on the verge of making a drastic shift thanks to new helmets. According to Inc.com, 25 NFL teams purchased the new ZERO1 helmet from the Seattle-based startup company Vicis and will distribute them in practices this spring. The ZERO1 "features a pliable outer layer and an impact-absorbing core layer that cushions the wearer's head against violent collisions -- all, for the most part, while maintaining the look and shape of a classic helmet." Here's a more detailed description from the company's website (which also features testimonials from several people that have used the helmet): The ZERO1's multiple layers work together to slow impact forces. The helmet features a soft outer shell and an underlying layer of columns designed to mitigate collisions from multiple directions. The ZERO1 delivers breakthroughs in safety based on current, state of the art testing protocols. It also elevates performance, featuring the industry's widest ?eld of peripheral view and low aerodynamic drag. Our tagline is Protect the Athlete/Elevate the Game™ – and that's what we've done with the ZERO1. In testing against 33 other helmets to measure which best reduces the severity of impact to the head, the Vicis ZERO1 finished first. Included in the study were helmets from Schutt and Riddell, which currently account for approximately 90 percent of helmet sales. Vicis was founded by neurosurgeon Sam Browd and Dave Marver, former CEO of the Cardiac Science Corporation, with the goal of reducing the high rate of concussions in football. While it would take years of play and further studies to conclusively prove that they've been successful, the studies show that they're on their way to making an impact. And as it turns out, we may see the ZERO1 on the field pretty soon. "I'm quite confident you'll see this on several NFL players this season," Marver told Inc.com, though he refused to say which players might do so."It's up to them to reveal that." It's worth noting that several current and former NFL players are part of Vicis' "coalition." Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin, Bobby Wagner, Alex Smith, Jerry Rice, Tony Dorsett, Roger Staubach, and more are members of the advisory team.
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Ravens' Joe Flacco: Could get some help via trade
Baltimore could look to the trade market for a wide receiver to offer another weapon to Flacco in the passing game, Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun reports. Despite losing Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken in the offseason, Baltimore didn't draft any wide receivers or add any significant veterans at the position. Flacco is thus left with a receiving corps led by Mike Wallace, with Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro and Chris Moore -- combined owners of 52 career catches -- the other likely candidates to earn key supporting roles. The Ravens could still add a veteran slot target along the lines of Anquan Boldin or Victor Cruz, but it also isn't out of the question that the team could make a more aggressive maneuver to secure a player who isn't clearly past his prime. The Chargers and Eagles both look like possible trade partners, boasting strong depth at wide receiver after making significant additions during the draft. While accustomed to playing with mediocre or subpar supporting casts on offense, Flacco may really have his work cut out for him in 2017 after the Ravens devoted their offseason resources to the defensive side. The team also has major question marks along the offensive line and in the backfield, though it at least appears the Baltimore defense has a nice combination of high-end talent and depth.
Texans' D'Onta Foreman: Focused on conditioning
Head coach Bill O'Brien said Foreman needs to do some work to get into ideal football shape, The Houston Chronicle's Aaron WIlson reports. Listed at 249 pounds for his final collegiate season, Foreman checked in at 233 pounds at the combine -- still tied for the second-heaviest among running backs -- and then ran a 4.45 second 40-yard dash at the University of Texas pro day. His pre-draft workouts likely emphasized dropping weight and improving his 40 time, and while the Texans surely are glad to have a slimmed-down version of the young running back, they probably want him to shift his focus toward improving his strength and stamina. Foreman just recently turned 21 years old and only caught 13 passes in his college career, but his impressive combination of size and speed should give him an immediate shot to unseat Alfred Blue as the top backup to Lamar Miller. The third-round selection (No. 89 overall) could also be in the mix for short-yardage and goal-line work.
Chargers' Travis Benjamin: Still in mix as starting WR
Benjamin (knee), not Mike Williams, is listed as the No. 3 wide receiver for the Chargers, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. Williams cautions that Benjamin seems to have a precipitous hold on the No. 3 WR job, as the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Mike Williams, could push him for the starting spot. However, the two wideouts play vastly different positions within the offensive scheme, meaning should Benjamin lose his starting spot he still figures to play a smaller role as a stretch-the-field speedster on the outside, or even in the slot. Given the draft capital invested in Williams, it seems likely the Clemson product will see the field sooner rather than later, mitigating Benjamin's fantasy value. Don't rule out the 27-year-old in best-ball formats, however, where his speed and big-play ability could help him score highly in random weeks.
Bears' Kevin White: Appears healthy at offseason program
Head coach John Fox said White (leg) looks healthy and is having a great offseason, ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson reports. White is more than seven months removed from suffering the fractured fibula that ended his season after Week 4 and limited him to 19 catches for 187 yards on 36 targets. He missed his entire rookie year with a fractured tibia in the same leg, but there's been nothing to suggest the two injuries were anything more than an unfortunate coincidence. Given his volume in a limited sample last season -- 8.8 targets per game -- along with the Bears' decision to let Alshon Jeffery leave in free agency, it's clear the team still holds realistic hopes White will develop into a No. 1 receiver. The No. 7 overall pick from the 2015 draft should be assured of a starting spot if he stays healthy, but he'll have competition for targets in a revamped receiving corps that includes 2016 breakout star Cameron Meredith and free-agent acquisitions Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright.
Buccaneers' O.J. Howard: Impressing in rookie mini-camp
Howard has impressed through the first two days of Bucs mini-camp, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports. "He's a winner, he's a great kid, and he can do everything we need a tight end to do," said head coach Dirk Koetter. The heralded first-round pick turned heads with an athletic catch in tight coverage during Friday's session, and his all-around skill set has Koetter excited about what Howard could bring to the offense. The 22-year-old is considered a complete package at tight end, with his blocking acumen seemingly as valued by the Bucs as his ability to get downfield on pass routes. Koetter refers to a player like Howard as "one of the best weapons" an offense can have, due to his ability to be deployed all over the formation. The rookie's work ethic is another plus, and accordingly, Howard is reportedly already deep into his playbook on a nightly basis.
Titans' Marcus Mariota: Not full speed yet
According to Titans coach Mike Mularkey, Mariota (fibula) is still not able to run full speed, ESPN's Paul Kuharsky reports. Mariota is reportedly getting very close to testing his previously broken right fibula by sprinting, but the quarterback isn't there just yet. Even when he is, Mularkey said the Titans may do an abnormal amount of 7-on-7 work in practice to ensure Mariota can participate while still being out of harm's way. Although it appears likely he'll be ready by training camp, expect Mariota's situation to be updated further in the coming weeks.