FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 29: A view of a New England Patriots helmet on the bench during the game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

98.5 The Sports Hub staff report

When the National Football League returns to game action, players may be a little bit safer from the spread of COVID-19.

How? NFLPA medical director Thom Mayer revealed on ESPN’s Adam Schefter Podcast that league engineers are working with Oakley to develop new player face masks that contain materials used in surgical or N95 masks. Oakley is the NFL’s official manufacturer of all helmet visors.

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“They’ve got some prototypes. They’re doing really good work,” Mayer said (via ESPN). “Some of them, when you first look at them, you think, ‘Gosh, no’ ’cause you’re not used to seeing it. You’re just not used to seeing it. But they’re looking at every issue you can imagine, including when it fogs up.

“What do we do with that? But these guys are used to dealing with this stuff.”

The NFL is reportedly working on new face masks with N95 or surgical material. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The NFL is reportedly working on new face masks with N95 or surgical material. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Mayer said that “there will probably be a recommendation” for players to use the modified face masks, indicating that it may not be mandatory.

The NFL continues to progress toward its own reopening process. Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to teams on May 6 instructing them to have personnel ready to return by May 15. However, the league will not officially reopen team facilities until all 32 clubs are able to do so.

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In Mass., governor Charlie Baker unveiled his four-phase plan for reopening the state on Monday. The earliest that large venues can fully reopen is the start of phase 4, which at the earliest will begin July 20. But the Patriots may be able to let coaches, executives, and team personnel back into their facilities as part of the reopening of “office space” (starting May 25) and “gyms” (as early as June 29).

The league unveiled the official schedules for all 32 teams last week. Here’s a look at the Patriots’ slate, which starts with a home date against the Dolphins on Sept. 13.

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