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New rule has Giants padded up

Houston Oilers running back Earl Campbell pushes Denver

Houston Oilers running back Earl Campbell pushes Denver Broncos’ Tom Jackson off as he turns the corner after taking a pass in the flats during the first quarter. (Aug. 5, 1978) Credit: AP, 1978

The Giants are expected to practice in full pads on Friday. And this year, full pads means FULL pads.

The NFL is enforcing a new rule this year that requires all players except for kickers and punters to wear knee and thigh pads. Most players in the league have not worn the added protection, which became optional in the NFL in 1995. For many Giants, this will be the first time they’re wearing the equipment since college where they are required.

“It’s new for me, but it’s nothing I can’t get used to,” said Victor Cruz, who has not worn the pads in his NFL career. “Now with the technology it almost feels like you have nothing on anyway.”

Most players will wear pads that are built into their undergarments, at least on the thigh. They are nothing like the big waffles that players used to wear in the days of Earl Campbell. But it's still more than what they've become used to.

“It’s something you grew up playing with,” Stevie Brown said. “You knew how to play with them all the time. When I got to the league was the first time I didn’t have to wear them so I stopped wearing them, and now it’s just like riding a bike.”

Not everyone is happy about the rule. Defensive end Adrian Tracy said he will follow the rule grudgingly.

“If that’s what is required of us, I’m going to have to put those on,” he said. “I’m not going to be out there with the big blocks. I’m going to try to accommodate my own personal preference within the rules. I’ll wear pads but I don’t know if they’ll be all that much … You don’t have to have the ones from little league that cover your whole entire leg. But we’ll make it work.”

He won’t have much choice. At least not in games. NFL officials will be on the lookout for players who are not in compliance with the new rule during pregame warmups. If any player is in violation, the team will be notified and the player will be informed. And if a player wears the pads for warmups and then tosses them in the game? Uniform inspectors will have an eye on the game action too, and if there is a lack of padding the inspector will tell the officials during a stop in play and the referee will tell the coach that the player is ineligible until the violation is corrected.

While the new rule will be a change for many players, there are some who already wear the pads. Like Aaron Ross.

“I actually started wearing them when I did punt return,” he said. “I got a thigh contusion so I started wearing knee pads and thigh pads. I loved it in college so it’s not going to be a big deal for me.”

Ross said the pads do not interfere with mobility or speed at all.

“It’s two ounces added on,” Ross said. “The only thing it’ll affect is your look.”

That’s important too, Ross said.

“But that’s the whole thing with the league now is safety first,” he said. “As far as DBs and skill positions, we don’t like to have pads. But to have pads on it’ll take away the thigh and the knee contusions. I’m sure it will help out.”

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