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Ezekiel Elliott, now fully recovered from a partially torn ligament in his knee, is hoping to get back to looking like the same running back who won the league rushing title in two of his first three seasons.
But there could be something different about the way he looks in 2022, at least to sharp-eyed Cowboys fans.
Elliott is rocking a new lid.
Photos taken during media portions of the team’s OTAs thus far have shown Elliott to be sporting new helmet. He’s worn the Riddell Speedflex since coming to Dallas in 2016, albeit with a couple different facemask configurations over his six seasons.
But the 26-year-old is now trying out the company’s newest helmet, the Axiom.
Ezekiel Elliott wearing a new helmet pic.twitter.com/CueELehWEb
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) May 25, 2022
“Umm, I changed my shoulder pads one year,” he explained to reporters last week. “So I mean, this is probably like the biggest change I’ve had.”
But according to the helmet manufacturer, the new model is about more than a futuristic aesthetic.
Rather than position-specific headgear, the Axiom is designed and made specifically to fit each individual player, created from a high-tech digital scan of the player’s head. The helmet is then custom-built for a perfect fit.
Flex panels and internal liners help absorb impact, and Elliott says his new helmet is “lighter” and “has the same safety rating,” but the most obvious change from traditional helmets may be in the facemask.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) May 26, 2022
Instead of what has previously been, for all intents and purposes, a cage fastened to the shell of the headgear, Riddell says the Axiom features “a panoramic elliptical” mask that is better integrated into the helmet itself.
Gone is the top bar that encircles the upper face opening and the raised corners that are bolted to the exterior of the helmet. The result is a stronger facemask that also dramatically increases the player’s peripheral view of the field.
The Axiom also comes standard with a factory-installed, optically-correct visor to aid in eye protection. Elliott’s visor is darkened; J.J. Watt and Budda Baker of the Arizona Cardinals have been seen wearing the Axiom with a clear visor. The visor can also be removed entirely.
JJ and Budda rockin the new Riddell Axiom helmets.
Pretty clean IMO pic.twitter.com/JVtkcxkXy9
— Trent (@RedSeaTrent) May 24, 2022
Cowboys backup Tony Pollard has also been using the Axiom in early practice sessions, as have several other players from squads across the NFL.
The Axiom will be seen all over college fields this fall, too, after three years of testing. Ohio State, Florida, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Texas, Houston, Penn State, Florida State, Stanford, SMU, and UCLA are just a few of the programs who have already tried out the Axiom with their players.
But the ultimate goal is improved player safety at all levels of the game. The Axiom contains impact-sensing technology that collects and transmits data from the field in real time, allowing coaches and training staffs to better monitor player safety, even during practices and games.
Athletes tend to be creatures of habit (or superstition), especially when it comes to their personal gear. But with the release of what the industry’s top manufacturer is calling “a great leap forward” in helmet tech, look for more and more players to start a new habit with the Axiom.
Even if it’s just because so many other players are wearing it.
“They come out with the new Ford F-150, you know what I’m saying?” Elliott joked. “You got the old one, you want the new one.”