East Rutherford - June 14, 2012: Giants Justin Tuck with...

East Rutherford - June 14, 2012: Giants Justin Tuck with his unusual face mask at the New York Giants Thursday mini camp. (Photo by Patrick E. McCarthy) Credit: Photo by Patrick E. McCarthy

At one point during Thursday’s final practice of the minicamp, Justin Tuck tossed his helmet in the air and tried to catch it by the facemask. It fell to the ground with a thud. Just like it was supposed to.

Tuck is wearing a new facemask this season, a dense forest of bars and blinders that looks like the grill of a ’57 Chevy. The point of it is to keep offensive lineman from grabbing onto the mask and jerking his head around, something that happens more than you might think in NFL trenches and something that, given Tuck’s neck and shoulder injuries last season, was a big problem for the defensive end.

“You see the old school trains, the grills on the old school trains,” Tuck told Giants.com. “That’s what I was going for.”

He’s still trying to come up with a name for it. He’s considering Shredder. Or Optimus Prime. Or the Fortress of Solitude. He even asked his followers on Twitter for suggestions last night, noting that the facemask has “taken on a life of its own.”

When I spoke to Chris Canty about Tuck’s facemask this week, he was quick to remind me that he was the one who started the trend of using custom-made facemasks. It started back in Dallas, he said, and when he came to the Giants he began working with Joe Skiba, the team’s equipment manager. Right now he’s wearing what he called the “third generation” facemask, which is a little sleeker than the original and doesn’t have the bullnose bar between the eyes.

Tuck started wearing one like Canty’s late last season. It has six bars across and three that do up and down. Tuck’s new one has the vertical bars at an angle, 12 of them slashing across his face supported by five horizontal bars.

“Everybody is like, ‘Can I get that facemask?’” Tuck told Giants.com. “No, it’s exclusive to me, no one else can have it. But it’s a copycat league in everything people do so I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few of those floating around before we play.”

Come training camp, Canty, who has been sidelined by offseason knee surgery through the OTAs and minicamp, said he’s going to push the facemask envelope even further.

“I know he’s got the new one,” Canty said. “I’m waiting to unveil mine … Tuck’s is pretty cool. But I’ll unveil Maximus pretty soon. Maximus is what we’re going to call it.”

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