Alex Boone doesn’t want to lose his memory, so he’s ditching the style of Riddell helmet that he’s worn for as long as he can remember.
“I didn’t have to,” said the Vikings left guard. “I chose to.”
Taken aback by what he said was the first concussion of his career two weeks ago at Chicago, Boone will wear a new helmet designed by Schutt Sports when the Vikings play the Redskins on Sunday at FedEx Field.
“I have no idea what makes it better for concussions,” Boone said. “They just tell me it’s better. Who knows if that’s really true.”
The helmet manufacturer and the NFL can’t, and don’t, promote the helmet as concussion-proof. But the latest technology was used in the helmet to better absorb the force of collisions while offering a more secure cradle for the head.
“I think a lot of guys wear these now,” Boone said. “I saw [Bills guard] Richie Incognito wearing one the other night on ‘Monday Night Football.’ It’s actually more comfortable.”
Boone wore the helmet in practice this week. He couldn’t wear it last week because it took him a week to make it out of the NFL’s concussion protocol. And because of that, he had no choice but to sit out last week’s game vs. the Lions.
He’s not complaining. In fact, he’s appreciative that the decision no longer belongs to the players.
“I didn’t feel any different last week than I do right now, but they still failed me in the concussion test,” Boone said. “But it’s just one of those things that you now see the news about concussions. Guys, we see old players and we talk to them, and we don’t want to end up like that.
“It’s a shame what this game will do to you, but ... you know what you signed up for.”
When Boone returned to practice on Wednesday, he told reporters: “I have kids, and the last thing I want to have them do is take care of me at 35. … My wife and my oldest asked me to try a new helmet because they don’t want to wheel me around when I’m 35. So I will be trying a new helmet this week and probably from here on out.”
Boone left the Bears game in the fourth quarter. He says he was “out of it” at the end of the third quarter and thanked teammates for alerting the Vikings training staff.
“I guess when we switched sides of the field, I had already had the concussion,” Boone said. “I don’t remember a lot from the game. But I guess [center Joe] Berger said I was walking with him and I guess I was holding his arm. He was like, ‘Get off of me,’ and I was, ‘No, man, just let me walk with you. I don’t feel good.’
“Then, when I came off the field, they were like, ‘You got to check this guy.’ ”
Boone assumed he would play the following week at home vs. Detroit. He was wrong. He failed his first concussion protocol test.
“It was harder than I thought it would be to get out of protocol last week,” Boone said. “They ask you these questions. Apparently, the test thought I was cheating, so it actually failed me.
“I wasn’t trying to cheat. I really don’t think you can cheat the test. But I just tried to slow down for accuracy so I could get the answers right. They said I wasn’t answering fast enough, so I failed.”
Boone had to wait 24 hours to retake the test, per the concussion protocol. He passed on his second try. But he had run out of time to get back for the Lions game because once the verbal test is passed, a player must undergo a physical exertion test and show he’s symptom-free a day later.
“They really don’t give you any choices anymore,” Boone said. “The strides they’ve made in that are unbelievable. It’s a pain, but it’s worth it.”
It’s not perfect. Players are still going to try to hide concussions out of inherent toughness or fear of losing their jobs.
“Hey, I wasn’t going to say a word when I was out of it,” Boone said. “Thank god the guys around me said something because god knows what would have happened if I had taken another hit.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings writer. Twitter: @MarkCraigNFL E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org