Anyone who has played football knows how fussy and particular players can get about their uniforms. Sure, you want to look good—but more importantly, you want to play good. Team uniforms look identical at first glance, but every player has little tricks to make his equipment more comfortable and enhance his performance. A recent article on ESPN.com highlighted common equipment alterations that NFL players make to customize their uniforms to their liking. Here are our three favorites.
1. Double-Sided Tape on Shoulder Pads
Football players want to make it as hard as possible for their opponents to grab onto them. Putting double-sided tape on your shoulder pads is one surefire way to make yourself more slippery. By placing the tape on top of your pads and then firmly pressing your jersey against it, you essentially tighten your sleeves and give your opponent less fabric to grab onto.
This can make a huge difference for defensive linemen or linebackers. Offensive linemen will latch onto anything they can when trying to execute a block. Let’s put it like this: if you were an offensive lineman, who would you rather try to block—a guy wearing a skin-tight compression shirt or a dude in a bathrobe? Exactly. There’s nothing in the rulebook against this one, so feel free to give it a try.
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2. Pre-Tape Spray, the New Stickum
Pre-tape spray (also sometimes known as pre-wrap spray) is the modern day equivalent of stickum, the glue-like substance that NFL players used to slather on their hands and forearms back in the 1970s to enhance their catching ability.
The use of stickum and similar substances in this manner was banned in 1981, but some NFL players still try to get away with adding a little something extra to improve their grip. One way to do this is with pre-tape spray, applied prior to a tape job to increase its durability. Although it’s not as effective as stickum and its effects wear off rather quickly, pre-tape spray is difficult to detect, making it an attractive way to gain an edge for certain players. However, the risk outweighs the reward on this one, since almost every level of football has rules against using foreign substances to get a competitive advantage. Just do some grip-strengthening exercises instead!
3. Shin Guards Save Legs
Every athlete knows that getting hit in the shin hurts like hell and can have lasting effects that can slow you down. Which is exactly why some NFL players have started wearing shin guards. Though you might associate shin guards with soccer players, the benefits they offer to football players are pretty obvious.
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Shin guards add a layer of protection for an area that’s usually shielded by nothing more than a sock, and they’re light enough that they don’t slow a player down. NFL stars like Adrian Peterson and Cam Newton can be seen rocking shin guards on game day.