In 2014 it appeared as though Eric Winston’s NFL career was coming to an end.
In the span of two years, Winston spent time with four different NFL teams, two of which released him (Texans in 2012, Seahawks in 2014). The latter release came before the final rosters were even set, as Seattle didn’t think Winston had enough in him to even be a backup.
Winston spent the next several months waiting for his phone to ring and for another team to give him what may be his last shot in pro football. It came when the Bengals signed the veteran tackle late in the final weeks of the 2014 season to give them some much-needed depth.
Incumbent starting right tackle Andre Smith suffered a season-ending arm injury that paved the way for Winston to take his roster spot. Though he struggled at times, Winston showed he still had plenty left in his tank to be a reliable backup in this league.
That’s what he’s been ever since, and it’s a role the Bengals are hoping he’ll maintain in 2017.
In the meantime, Winston is testing out a new helmet that could help increase player safety. After all, Winston is the president of the NFLPA, and he’s always striving to make the game better for his NFL brethren.
The latest example of such involves new helmets created by the Seattle-based company VICIS, which Winston is giving a test run during the offseason workouts. The highly-engineeded helmet is intended to be worn by football players to reduce impact forces. VICIS claims the helmet mitigates linear and rotational impact forces with multiple layers that work together to slow impact forces. While there's no helmet that could prevent a concussion, a helmet with this intention could increase player safety when it comes to head injuries.
“I saw how it finished in the testing results and figured I’d give it a go and see how it felt,” Winston told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “I was going to test it for feel and vision and things like that. It feels pretty good. I like it. I never actually never liked the way the regular helmets felt that much, so this has been a little bit of a plus for me. It’s a little heavier, but we’ll see how it stands up when we start hitting.”
The ZERO1 football helmet boasts of multiple layers intended to slow impact forces and mitigate collisions from multiple directions. It recently received the top score in an NFL/NFL Players Association Helmet Laboratory Performance Testing program, wherein independent biochemical experts were tasked with determining which helmets are best at reducing overall head impact severity. The ZERO1 performed better than thirty-two different helmets, including those provided by popular manufacturers Riddell, Schutt and Xenith.
Winston isn’t trying this because he’s the NFLPA president. Instead, Winston truly believes this helmet could help protect him better and ensure he has a thriving life after football.
“This was an individual decision and an individual choice,” Winston said. “I want to be able to protect myself and at the same time play well, and as of right now, the helmet has allowed me to do that.”
It’s no secret that head injuries are one of, if not the biggest fear in the NFL today, largely because of the devastating effects they have on players later on in life. According to the Enquirer, two players in addition to Winston were fitted for the helmet but opted to not go through the trial process. Good on Winston to help try and combat head injuries and see if he can increase his level of on-field precaution.
You can learn more about the helmet on the VICIS website.