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NFL: Players can't practice or play with unapproved helmets

FILE - In this June 11, 2019, file photo, Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown is shown during an NFL football minicamp in Alameda, Calif. The Raiders and their big personalities like Antonio Brown and Richie Incognito are ready to be stars on HBO's "Hard Knocks." (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

ALAMEDA, Calif. — While Raiders star receiver Antonio Brown fights to use his old helmet, the NFL reiterated its stance that players aren’t allowed to practice or play with unapproved equipment.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy tweeted out a statement Monday without mentioning Brown by name that said players can only use helmets that have been certified by experts to be safe to use.

“The player can’t practice or play in games with equipment that’s not approved,” McCarthy wrote. “If he doesn’t play or practice he is in breach of his contract and doesn’t get paid. NFL policy is that helmets have to be certified by NOCSAE. They don’t certify equipment that’s (older) than 10 years.”

The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment sets performance and test standards for equipment. Brown’s Schutt Air Advantage helmet is no longer allowed because the NFL follows the National Athletic Equipment Reconditioners Association (NAERA) rule that helmets 10 years or older cannot be recertified.

Schutt discontinued making the helmet three years ago because current technology had moved past it, according to the company.

Brown was one of 32 players using helmets last season that are now banned by the league and players’ association. Those players, including Tom Brady, were able to use the helmets last season under a grace period but were required to make the change in 2019.

Brown has not participated in a full practice for the Raiders after starting training camp on the non-football injury list with injuries to his feet that reportedly came from frostbite suffered while getting cryotherapy treatment in France. Brown was cleared to practice on July 28 and participated in part of two sessions but wasn’t around the team last week when he had a grievance hearing with the NFL over his helmet.

The Raiders didn’t practice Monday but are hoping to get Brown back on the field soon.

“The helmet thing is a personal matter to him,” coach Jon Gruden said Saturday. “He has a strong feeling about what he’s worn on his head, and we’re supporting him. We understand the league’s position as well, so we’re in a tough spot.”

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