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Notebook | Jets HC Robert Saleh Assesses the Guardian Helmet

QB Zach Wilson Will Grow with a Young Core; DT Quinnen Williams Has Best Muscle Mass of His Career


Pads come on Monday at Jets training camp and across the NFL, but an effort to mitigate the possibility of head injury early on via the soft helmet cover called the Guardian Cap will continue, at least for a while. Use of the protective device was approved during the NFL Meetings earlier this year and mandated that offensive and defensive linemen, tight ends and linebackers must wear the device from the start of contact in preseason training until the second preseason game, which for the Jets is against visiting Atlanta on Aug. 22.

During his series of press conferences last week, Jets head coach Robert Saleh was generally positive about the devices -- especially as they apply to the possibility of the team's four quarterbacks smashing their hands into the hats of onrushing linemen. Saleh, however, sees the use of the Guardian Cap as a glass half full.

"I think there's balance in everything," he said. "Too much of anything is a bad thing. I do think because of the soft blow, it's kind of lending to players using their heads a little bit more. I do think when the first time that they take it off, anybody who's played football knows the first time you hit with your helmet or you have a collision, there's a shock. And I do think if you're waiting until the first time for that shock to happen -- I don't know, time will tell. It's just interesting with those Guardian Caps and what exactly are we trying to accomplish.

"There is an acclimation period that's needed for actual pads. for what they're actually going to use in the game and so if you're waiting for the game for them to actually feel that... I don't know, it's going to be interesting to see what type of feedback we get from the players."

Jets rookie defensive lineman Jermaine Johnson said that his helmet with the cap attached "felt a little bit heavier, kind of makes you feel like a bobblehead." He pointed out that the impact of the device was limited for defensive linemen because their primary weapons are their hands.

"We come out and strike with our hands, so I don't see it as a big deal for our position group," he said.

See the Green & White on the field during Back Together Saturday at Jets Training Camp.

The Guardian company, based in Georgia, supplies the caps to more than two dozen colleges and asserts the current version of the soft-shell that attaches to helmets reduces force from head contact by up to 20% if all players involved in the contact are using it.

On Saturday, the NFL released a statement, quoting Dr. Allen Sills, the league's chief medical officer: "The brain does not acclimate to head impacts. The Guardian Cap helps mitigate those forces at a time of the season when we see the greatest concentration of them."

Early Praise for Zach Wilson
While there have been no lack of storylines during the first week of training camp at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, perhaps the No. 1 topic has been the growth of second-year quarterback Zach Wilson.

Player, coaches, veterans and rookies have all chimed in with their observations:

LB C.J. Mosley: "In Year 2, things speed up a lot. As far as building chemistry, we know what to expect. He's been in the system for a year. He's been around for a while and now it's about someone going to be in the right spot. Zach, he looked comfortable last year. Everything that happened last year happened for a reason. This is another year to build confidence and grow together as a team."

WR Corey Davis: "Zach's a great leader who's coming into his own. He's encouraging as a leader and he's bringing guys with him. In the huddle he's made steps, he's telling guys what he wants. He's telling us little things, communicating inside and outside the huddle. He knows those things go a long way. Everything correlates, how you do anything is how you do everything. He took it to heart, comes out here and he's been consistent on and off the field. So he bring guys along and to be selfless as much as possible."

HC Robert Saleh: "Zach will be a lot better, at the same time we're a very young group. We've added guys, a rookie [Garrett Wilson], second-year guys [Elijah Moore], and we have Corey, Brax [Braxton Berrios] , Jeff [Smith] and [Denzel] Mims. The backfield is young. It's a young group, but at the same time it's going to be fun to watch it gel and create its identity. We have good players who are going to grow together.

TE Tyler Conklin: "It's about how hungry he is to be a great talent. What stands out is his ability to make all the throws, he has everything you need to be successful in this league. His work ethic, traveling all over getting with teammates, the talks we have -- there's an obvious work ethic. Zach is a talented young quarterback."

No Extra 'Baggage' for Quinnen Williams

A player's weight -- especially as it applies to Mekhi Becton and Quinnen Williams -- has been a prime interest of the news media since the start of training camp. Both players look good, feel good and have obviously dropped some poundage -- though no one will say exactly how much, no matter how many times they've been asked.

"I lost a lot of weight and added muscle mass," Williams said. "I'm back to where I want to be, the best since I've been since Alabama and feel much better, much lighter. In shape, especially coming off an injury [foot] last year. I've lost a good amount."

How much exactly? "Ask the nutritionist."

Williams was particularly descriptive about how he feels at the start of his fourth season in the NFL since the Jets selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

"It's like you're driving a truck with a boat on the back, once you drop that boat it's [the drive] a lot smoother," he said. "Being quick on your feet, getting off and attacking the front. It's about being able to get into the best shape of my career. I'm at my best weight, the best muscle mass of my career. I want to be the best player I want to be and the team needs me to be. [Losing weight] was a big thing for me this offseason."

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