Dear Doc...I played at Georgia in the late 70's and
wore a Riddell TAK-29 helmet. Could you give me some background and history on
this model? Thanks...DW
The TAK-29 was introduced in the early 1970s and was simply a modification of the traditional TK-2 suspension helmet. The lower suspension strap that rested against the neck in the TK-2 was replaced by a fluid / air filled neck pad that was borrowed from the "Micro Cell" helmet which has just been introduced a few years earlier. The intent of this helmet was to offer increased protection to the lower rear area of the helmet without the adding significant overall weight to it. Bob Griese, Charlie Sanders and many other NFL players used this model during the 1970s.
I believe Walter Payton throughout his entire career used a Wilson helmet. I think I heard at one time that when Wilson stopped making that particular helmet, the Bears equipment manager bought out the remaining stock to ensure Walter would be able to use it for his entire career. Is that true? What model helmet was it? It seems as though by the end of his career that helmet would have been unsafe compared to the Riddell and Schutt (Bike back then) helmets on the market. Does the NFL allow a player to use what they want or do they step in?
I know Dungard went out of business in the 80's. I also know that they tried unsuccessfully to market the stainless steal mask. At the time they were marketing the stainless masks did they continue to manufacture the aluminum masks? What year did they stop making the Aluminum style masks? Did the NFL outlaw the use of the aluminum style mask because of neck injuries or did equipment managers just stop outfitting the players with that model causing Dungard to stop manufacturing it?
Thank you very much--I love the website!
Thanks for the two interesting questions. The Bears did stockpile between one and two dozen Wilson helmets for Walter after the company decided to quit making football helmets in the early 1980s due to the high cost of product liability insurance. Walter exclusively used a Wilson model "F-2002" throughout his professional career.
This helmet was a combination of heavy leather padding and a stout upper strapping suspension and was considered quite safe for that era. (Well, maybe the defensive players trying to tackle Walter head on did not consider it personally safe.) Late in Walter's career an inexperienced employee at the Bear's equipment reconditioner, Riddell All American, put Walter's helmet in the hot water helmet washing machine along with the other Bears helmets which had the modern plastic cell interior padding. The hot water completely shrunk and ruined the leather padding in one of the last remaining helmets the team had stockpiled for Walter. Can you imagine having to face your boss after making a blunder like this? Incidentally, the NFL now requires that all helmets must pass strict N.O.C.E. certification tests.
Dungard went out of business in the late 1970s due to product liability insurance issues. I do not think the NFL has technically outlawed the use of the Dungard facemask because Mort Anderson still wears one, however, a few years ago Trent Dilfer was discouraged by the league from wearing the Dungard mask previously worn and then given to him by his childhood hero Terry Bradshaw. This could be a case where Mort is allowed to wear one only because he is a kicker or because he wore the mask his entire career he may have received a "grandfather" type exemption. Although it was used by NFL players on a test basis only since the early 1970s the stainless steel facemask was not marketed to the public until 1978 when it was introduced as the "Supermask." The Dungard 1978 catalog offered both their traditional line of aluminum facemasks along with their new line of stainless steel masks just prior to going out of business. The company founder Dr. Dunning, a Dentist and inventor by trade, has since passed away and his son who was also heavily involved in the business is now a jeweler in the Mid West.
I have learned more about helmets in the past year,
thanks to your site, than in the rest of my 33 years. Yet, I thirst for further
knowledge! So, at the risk of wearing out my welcome, here are some further
queries...I recently saw a picture of Bill Bergey, taken in the 1970s, which
included an Eagle's lineman. The lineman's helmet had wings that touched on the
front of the helmet, but Bergey's wing decals terminated at the center ridge,
leaving a gap between. Was this due to Bergey wearing a larger-sized helmet?
Thanks once again for sharing your wealth of knowledge.
I am both thankful and overwhelmed at the quality and volume of your questions. Please allow me, in fairness to include questions from other readers, to answer just your first question and I will save the rest for future columns.
I think you may have the wings on the Bergey helmet and the wings on the unnamed linesman's helmet reversed as to which one is the exception. Bill Bergey wore both a Riddell helmet and a MaxPro helmet with the Eagles. The Eagle wings were always separated by the center ridge for both of these types of helmets. In the 1960s and 1970s the Eagles All Pro lineman Bob Brown wore a rare MacGregor helmet with the wide padded center ridge option. Most Eagle players wore the conventional Riddell suspension helmet during this era however fellow Eagle Irv Cross also wore this style MacGregor helmet for a few years in the early 1960s. The MacGregor factory painted the Eagle wings so they were butted up or touching each other. This may be due to the fact that either there was no pronounced raised center ridge on the MacGregor helmet or the Eagle wings were just positioned differently in the MacGregor factory versus the Riddell factory where they were separated. When the Eagles started wearing the painted silver wings in the 1950s they were separated by the center ridge of the Riddell helmet. When the "Riddell" front "Wildcat" sweatband was introduced in the early 1970s it had to be temporarily removed to allow the Eagle wings (which were now decals rather than paint) to be installed behind the sweatband and butted up to their previously normal position where they were separated by the center ridge of the helmet. In the late 1980s the Eagle wings were applied to the outside edge of the front sweatband. This saved application time because the sweatband no longer had to be removed but unfortunately this shortcut gave the wings a sloppy or "slapped on" look. The current style Eagle wings are still mounted on each edge of the sweatband but the design of the wing has been tapered so that it has regained its cleaner look when the wings were mounted against each edge of the helmet ridge.
Why hasn't Riddell reproduced the Rams helmet
decal to team and game day specs? Most helmet fans would notice that the decal
does not sit right on the helmet they have purchased from stock Riddell. There
is a noticeable split from the bottom of the Rams horn in between the facemask
clips on the game day models. Byron
Riddell uses the same decal design that is authorized by NFL Properties for use by the team. The Ram's equipment manager splits the tip of the horn to allow a gap for the side attachment clip for the facemask. This "tweaking" of the authorized decal is not done to change the design of the logo but only to prevent the constant force and movement of the attachment clip from continually twisting and chewing up the decal during on field use. If you were to examine an 1960s era game used Rams helmet where the horns were painted on rather than being decaled you would see that the horn is contiguous like the current Riddell product. My advice to you is if the licensed Riddell product bothers you because it is not split then simply remove the mask and carefully cut a gap in the decal as the team does and reinstall the mask.