It can be good to be hard-headed sometimes, but you'd better literally have a hard head if you opt to play football without a helmet, especially when everyone else is donning one. That was Dick Plasman's choice in 1946, when he joined the NFL's Chicago Cardinals after serving in World War II.
In 1943, while Plasman was in the military, the NFL made wearing a helmet mandatory, but while everyone else complied, Plasman objected. He argued that making him wear a helmet was an unfair labor practice that caused him hardship, and the league finally relented.
Although Plasman, then mostly a kicker, didn't see much hard-hitting action upon his return, one would think that he of all people would have wanted the protection. Back in 1938, as a tight end for the Chicago Bears, Plasman raced in and out of the end zone for a ball. He missed the ball but not the brick wall, and was left with an injury to his left temple that was covered most of the time by his blond hair.
Plasman retired from the NFL in 1947, having never worn a helmet, and has gone down in history as the last player to take the field bareheaded.
- Coach Paul Brown of Cleveland pioneered both the single-bar face mask and the insertion of a radio into football helmets.
- The first team logo on an NFL helmet was a ram, painted on by Los Angeles Rams running back Fred Gehrke in 1948.
- The NFL is working on helmet technology that will send injury data to a computer, so that a player's physical status can be instantly determined.