By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
A day after it was confirmed the Patriots will be getting new uniforms in 2020, it's starting to sound like the red and white 'Pat Patriot' throwbacks could return in 2021.
Speaking with the Dan Patrick Show Wednesday morning, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians let it slip that "when the helmet rule changes next year we may have some creamsicle [referencing the Buccaneers throwback uniforms, pictured below]."
The 'helmet rule' Arians is referring to is the "One Shell Rule" which was put in place by the NFL in 2013. It came at the recommendation of the league's Head, Neck, and Spine Committee and the Player Safety Advisory Panel.
What the rule says is that teams are allowed one helmet shell (not including face masks) a season, as a safety precaution. The panels advised the league to try and avoid players breaking in new helmets in the middle of a season.
This limits teams like the Buccaneers, Patriots, Chargers, etc from wearing throwbacks or alternates that require a different color shell.
For more about the rule, Paul Lukas of Uni Watch has a great breakdown on his website.
Arians declaration seems to open up the possibility that the rule is now on its last legs. After following up with his comment, the NFL league office told Uni Watch, "There will be no change [to the rule] for the 2020 season. There are ongoing discussions about a potential change for the 2021 season, but no decisions have been made."
On top of that, I've been told by somebody working in an NFL equipment department that at least one team (besides Tampa) has internally discussed a plan for an alternate helmet shell in 2021. It's unlikely a team would take that step without some indication from the league that it could be used in a game.
Now would be a logical time for the NFL to revisit and/or repeal the rule. One of the major issues leading to it passing was that players were wearing outdated helmets that were no longer in production, and teams may not have had enough in stock to get players two or three versions of the lid they preferred. Those older helmets were banned starting last season, so this is no longer a problem.
On top of that, with a new CBA in place, those around the league may be once again realizing that more uniforms means more money. Eliminating the restriction would allow teams to bring back or create more alternate uniforms, which in turn would improve jersey sales.
Safety is of course key, but to this point there isn't much that indicates this rule keeps players any safer. One NFL equipment manager told Uni Watch that less helmet changes keeping players safer, "was true 10 years ago, maybe even five years ago. But helmet technology now is much better."
It makes sense that the NFL wouldn't want to be incredibly public with anything involving helmets, head safety, etc., especially when it comes to repealing a rule that was supposed to make players safer. Still, the way things are trending, it looks like even if it's done under the radar, Pat Patriot could be making a return in the near future.