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The NFL awarded three grants for player safety research. Here’s a closer look at the companies

Adrian Kraus/AP/File 2017/FR171451 AP via AP

The NFL knows it needs to make its game safer and find ways to reduce the number of concussions.

And the NFL knows that means going beyond just changing the rules each offseason. Over the last half-decade, the NFL has undertaken an annual search for safer equipment and new technologies to better protect players from head and other injuries.

But the NFL doesn’t have its own research and development department, a team of scientists cooking up the newest technology. The league instead has become a patron of the equipment industry, holding science fair-type contests to award grants to universities and companies large and small to develop new technologies and safer equipment.


On Thursday, the NFL announced the three winners of its latest contest, the HeadHealthTECH Challenge. The three companies were chosen out of 85 applicants and awarded a total of $383,504 to further test and develop their various products.

“We’re very encouraged by the quality of the submissions we’ve been getting, and I believe they will be even more sophisticated as the data and the tools continue to improve,” said Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president of Health & Safety Initiatives. “We believe a lot of this work will eventually translate to the football field at all levels, and to other sports, as well.”

This contest, the fourth such HeadHealthTECH Challenge since 2016, is part of the NFL’s broader $60 million effort to better understand the biomechanics of head injuries and help companies develop better equipment. In the four HeadHealthTech contests, the NFL has awarded $1.34 million in grants to 11 different technologies.

One of the winners this time was Corsair Innovations, a Plymouth-based company that received a grant of $168,504 to further develop its textile-based impact energy absorbing material, Fiber Energy Absorbing Material (FEAM). This material, which would replace the foam padding used in current helmets, is already being used with professional baseball umpires this summer, and Corsair has partnered with helmet maker Xenith to test FEAM in football helmets.


Corsair president William Lyndon said that FEAM material is customizable and can “help the NFL achieve one of its HHT goals: To design and optimize more protective helmets tailored to each player position.”

Duke University’s Dr. Barry Myers, who runs the HeadHealthTECH Challenge, is excited about FEAM’s potential, calling it “a truly novel material.” Myers is the director of Duke’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and also is a consultant for the NFL Players Association.

But the NFL acknowledges that protecting players’ heads involves more than creating a better helmet.

Gillette Stadium is one of five NFL stadiums that outfits FieldTurf.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

One of its grant winners was the Montreal-based firm FieldTurf, which received a $195,000 grant to develop technology for a new surface that could reduce head impacts and lower-extremity injuries.

FieldTurf is a synthetic surface that currently outfits five NFL stadiums, including Gillette Stadium, per the company. Myers said that about 20 percent of concussions are caused by head-to-ground impact, “so that’s a real opportunity to help players, if we can make the surface better and more friendly for the head.”

But the NFL hopes that FieldTurf’s new technology can also cut down on lower-extremity issues, such as torn knee ligaments and ankle sprains because of feet getting caught in the turf.

“Somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 percent of NFL injuries are lower extremities,” Miller said. “So there has been a focus on the biomechanical engineering side on the interaction between cleats and turfs — the notion of how much traction and flexion is good for a cleat and how much is too much. And we’re very excited to see there are potential advances in turf, too.”


The third grant went to Yobel Technologies, a Starkville, Miss.-based company that received $20,000 to support testing of its new facemask design, which is supposed to absorb more energy and can fit on existing helmets.

“They have used computational models and developed what they believe to be a better facemask,” Myers said. “So we will provide them with a grant for $20k to support testing for their first prototypes.”

The NFL has been holding various grant competitions since 2013, first with GE and then with Under Armour, and in 2016 shifted the focus to the HeadHealthTECH Challenge with Duke University. After announcing the grants on Thursday, the NFL said it will immediately begin accepting applicants through Sept. 13 for the next Challenge.

The product lifecycle can be slow — often taking four to five years for a product to come to market, if at all, according to Myers. But the NFL hopes that its grant initiatives can help connect innovators to get their products off the ground and provide incentives to help make equipment safer. While many products don’t make it to market, the NFL’s grant process helped make the Vicis football helmet a reality and now one of the most popular on the market.


“You need to take risk and make lots of commitments, because not every product gets to market,” Myers said. “The purpose of this program is to really strengthen the marketplace, fill much-needed gaps between innovators and the marketplace where our football players can benefit from the protection.”


Offseason offers good and bad

With the NFL’s summer vacation comes the usual spate of negative off-field news that dominates headlines.

Bills running back LeSean McCoy is ensnared in an ugly incident involving an ex-girlfriend, in which McCoy is accused of arranging for the victim to be beaten up and robbed of jewelry that McCoy allegedly had been trying to get back from the victim. McCoy and the victim, Delicia Cordon, have had at least two other domestic incidents in the past 12 months. Even if McCoy is exonerated — he has strongly denied all allegations — he could still miss some game time. The NFL could put him on the commissioner’s exempt list while it investigates all of the claims, and McCoy can still be suspended games under the personal conduct policy even if he is not charged with a crime.

In Jacksonville, defensive tackle Marcel Dareus is facing two sexual assault lawsuits. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim was arrested on July 4 on suspicion of DUI, and former Seahawks and Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner, 33, has been charged with attempted murder in Southern California after breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s home and allegedly trying to smother her with a carpet.


But it’s also important to remember that these negative stories represent but a small fraction of NFL players, and that plenty of them are affecting their communities in a positive way this offseason, per ESPN and the NFL Players Association.

Packers Pro Bowl defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has worked as an intern for judge Donald R. Zuidmulder in Wisconsin’s 8th Judicial District, and has also spent time with police and FBI agents this summer.

Falcons offensive lineman Ben Garland, an Air Force Academy graduate who was previously deployed to Jordan, has been serving time with the Air National Guard 140th Security Forces Squadron based at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo.

Colts defensive lineman Al Woods, a third generation cattleman, has spent all offseason raising 150 cattle on his farm in Louisiana.

And Buccaneers defensive back Josh Robinson and his wife adopted two boys, now both about five weeks old. Robinson and his wife decided to adopt after honoring the adoption agency Sacred Selections during the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats initiative last December.


Owens not alone in petty behavior

Terrell Owens’s ego, sensitivity, and pettiness will be on full display next month when he becomes the first person to skip his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

And if you thought that the Hall of Fame would be above such pettiness and sensitivity, think again.

The Hall has not reacted too kindly to Owens’s decision to throw himself a party at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, instead of partaking in the Hall of Fame ceremonies, which include receiving his gold jacket, unveiling his bust, and delivering a speech in front of thousands of fans. Per Clark Judge of the Talk of Fame Network, one of the Hall of Fame voters, the Hall will barely acknowledge Owens’s existence that weekend (Aug. 2-5). Owens will not be mentioned at Friday night’s Gold Jacket dinner, nor will he be announced at the induction ceremony on Saturday.

Owens’s name and image will be included on promotional material. But the Hall will mail him his jacket, and won’t honor Owens’s career with a video presentation.

“The focus is on the guys who are here,” said Joe Horrigan, the Hall’s executive director.

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Owens’s decision to boycott the ceremony — ostensibly as part of his hissyfit that the voters kept him out of the Hall for two years before voting him in — is unquestionably petty. But Horrigan and the Hall are supposed to be above this. Owens is a worthy Hall of Famer, and he should be honored appropriately, whether he is in attendance or not.


Bidwill should stick to the game

On May 23 in Atlanta, Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill stood next to Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell and announced the NFL’s new national anthem policy, which bans players from demonstrating during the anthem.

“My perspective is I think putting the focus back on the game,” Bidwill said at a news conference. “I look forward to getting the focus back on football and getting back to football in 2018.”

Apparently, limiting political expression only applies to the players. Monday night, shortly following the president’s endorsement of Brett Kavanaugh for the US Supreme Court, the Cardinals posted a story on the team website and distributed via their official social media accounts in which Bidwill lavished praise on Kavanaugh, his high school classmate.

Bidwill is certainly within his right to support his old friend. But it absolutely is political, given the implications regarding Roe v. Wade and several other important social issues facing the country.

And to do it on what amounts to official company letterhead, and to throw the full support of the Cardinals organization behind his efforts, displays a shocking level of hypocrisy given Bidwill’s stance on the national anthem protests.

The only real question is whether Bidwill is aware of his hypocrisy, or if he just doesn’t care.

Friends of Foxborough

Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick catching up during a break at the NFL owners meetings in March.Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Images for NFL

A thought that came to mind last week when scanning social media: Has a coach ever left Foxborough on better terms than Matt Patricia? He and Bill Belichick have been nearly inseparable since Patricia left for the Lions’ head coaching gig in February. They watched drills together at the NFL Combine and traveled to many of the same pro days on the pre-draft circuit. And last week on Instagram came a photo of Patricia and his wife partying with Belichick and Co. in Nantucket. Belichick has maintained good relationships with Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis, Scott Pioli, Thomas Dimitroff, and others, but not this good.

■  The Raiders will be selling personal seat licenses for their new stadium, and they won’t be cheap. Per the Las Vegas Review-Journal, PSLs for premium club seating will cost anywhere from $20,000 to $75,000, which only reserves the person the right to buy season tickets. It’s another reminder that Robert Kraft built Gillette Stadium with private money and without the benefit of PSLs, which is increasingly rare in today’s NFL.

■  Patrick Chung will drive the pace car at the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway next Sunday. He joins a long list of Patriots’ pace car drivers at this event, including Josh McDaniels, Matt Light, Rob Ninkovich, and Julian Edelman.

Also next Sunday, Patriots Marquis Flowers, Jonathan Jones, and Brandon King will host a football camp for kids ages 6-18 at Manning Field in Lynn. Visit seanstellato.com/affs to register.

Lots of losing

Jim Brandstatter announced on Twitter last week that he has been fired by the Lions after 31 years as their radio color commentator. Brandstater, who will remain a commentator for Michigan football, certainly saw a lot of bad Lions football over the years. By our count, Brandstater watched the Lions compile a 199-296 regular-season record, dating to 1987 (the Lions went 4-11 that year). In those 31 years, Brandstatter witnessed just nine playoff appearances, two division titles, and one playoff win. He also witnessed 16 seasons of 10-plus losses, saw eight full-time head coaches come and go, and of course, watched the first 0-16 team in NFL history, the 2008 Lions.

Extra points

The new helmet rules that could result in an ejection for the player have gotten the most ink this offseason, but former referee Terry McAulay, who just this month left the league for a position with NBC, told ESPN that the kickoff rule changes will be significant. “It isn’t getting as much press, but the kickoff change, this may be the biggest change I’ve ever seen,” McAulay said. “People know so little about it. There are so many restrictions on what either side of the ball can do.”

David Tepper can’t do anything about the big, hulking statue of <b>Jerry Richardson </b>outside of Bank of America Stadium.Chuck Burton/AP

David Tepper’s $2.225 billion purchase of the Panthers finally went through last week. Tepper has wasted little time making big changes to the organization, with chief operating officer Tina Becker and longtime general counsel Richard Thigpen stepping down this offseason, but Tepper can’t do anything about the big, hulking statue of Jerry Richardson outside of Bank of America Stadium. In his introductory news conference, Tepper said he was contractually obligated to keep the statue of Richardson, who was forced to sell the team after several allegations of workplace and sexual harassment surfaced . . . Sadly, Bobby Beathard won’t be giving an induction speech at the Hall of Fame, either. Per Clark Judge, Beathard will give a video speech, as he is experiencing the early stages of dementia . . . Australia wants a piece of the NFL action, with tourism minister Kate Jones telling 9news.com that she met with NFL executives during a recent trip to the U.S. US to push for a game in Australia. The NFL seems like a natural fit in Australia, except for one huge problem — a 14-hour time difference between Australia and the east coast. A 9 p.m. kickoff in Australia is a 7 a.m. kickoff in New York and 4 a.m. in Los Angeles, which doesn’t seem too attractive for the NFL.

Fun in the sun

It is that time of year again. Rookies for the Ravens have already reported to training camp, and veterans are hot on their heels — they report on Wednesday. With other camps about to kick into full swing, here’s a look at where each team will be holding their summer activities:


BALTIMORE: Under Armour Performance Center; Owings Mills, Md. Rookies: 7/11 • Veterans: 7/18

BUFFALO: St. John Fisher College; Rochester, N.Y. Rookies: 7/25 • Veterans: 7/25

CINCINATTI: Paul Brown Stadium; Cincinnati Rookies: 7/23 • Veterans: 7/25

CLEVELAND: Cleveland Browns Training Complex; Berea, Ohio Rookies: 7/25 • Veterans: 7/25

DENVER: UCHealth Training Center; Englewood, Colo. Rookies: 7/24 • Veterans: 7/27

HOUSTON: The Greenbrier; White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. Rookies: 7/25 • Veterans: 7/25

INDIANAPOLIS: Grand Park; West eld, Ind. Rookies: 7/22 • Veterans: 7/25

JACKSONVILLE: TIAA Bank Field; Jacksonville, Fla. Rookies: 7/18 • Veterans: 7/25

KANSAS CITY: Missouri Western State University; St. Joseph, Mo. Rookies: 7/22 • Veterans: 7/25

LA CHARGERS: Jack Hammett Sports Complex; Costa Mesa, Calif. Rookies: 7/27 • Veterans: 7/27

MIAMI: Baptist Health Training Facility; Davie, Fla. Rookies: 7/18 • Veterans: 7/25

NEW ENGLAND: Gillette Stadium; Foxborough Rookies: 7/22 • Veterans: 7/25

NY JETS: Atlantic Health Jets Training Center; Florham Park, N.J. Rookies: 7/24 • Veterans: 7/26

OAKLAND: Napa Valley Marriott; Napa, Calif. Rookies: 7/23 • Veterans: 7/26

PITTSBURGH: Saint Vincent College; Latrobe, Pa. Rookies: 7/24 • Veterans: 7/25

TENNESSEE: Saint Thomas Sports Park; Nashville Rookies: 7/22 • Veterans: 7/25


ARIZONA: University of Phoenix Stadium; Glendale, Ariz. Rookies: 7/22 • Veterans: 7/27

ATLANTA: Atlanta Falcons Training Facility; Flowery Branch, Ga. Rookies: 7/23 • Veterans: 7/26

CAROLINA: Wofford College; Spartanburg, S.C. Rookies: 7/25 • Veterans: 7/25

CHICAGO: Olivet Nazarene University; Bourbonnais, Ill. Rookies: 7/16 • Veterans: 7/19

DALLAS: Marriott Residence Inn; Oxnard, Calif. Rookies: 7/25 • Veterans: 7/25

DETROIT: Detroit Lions Training Facility; Allen Park, Mich. Rookies: 7/19 • Veterans: 7/26

GREEN BAY: St. Norbert College; De Pere, Wis. Rookies: 7/25 • Veterans: 7/25

LA RAMS: University of California Irvine; Irvine, Calif. Rookies: 7/23 • Veterans: 7/25

MINNESOTA: TCO Performance Center; Eagan, Minn. Rookies: 7/24 • Veterans: 7/27

NEW ORLEANS: New Orleans Saints Training Facility; Metairie, La. Rookies: 7/18 • Veterans: 7/25

NY GIANTS: Quest Diagnostics Training Center; East Rutherford, N.J. Rookies: 7/22 • Veterans: 7/25

PHILADELPHIA: NovaCare Training Complex; Philadelphia Rookies: 7/25 • Veterans: 7/25

SAN FRANCISCO: SAP Performance Facility; Santa Clara, Calif. Rookies: 7/25 • Veterans: 7/25

SEATTLE: Virginia Mason Athletic Center; Renton, Wash. Rookies: 7/25 • Veterans: 7/25

TAMPA BAY: One Buccaneer Place; Tampa Rookies: 7/23 • Veterans: 7/25

WASHINGTON: Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center; Richmond Rookies: 7/25 • Veterans: 7/25

Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.