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BETWEEN THE LINES

These guys don't pad their stats

November 23, 2008|Sam Farmer | Farmer is a Times staff writer.

Hip pads aren't hip. Not in the NFL.

They might be standard-issue equipment in college, but pro players aren't required to wear them, so very few -- if any -- do.

And that's not all. In the interest of staying sleek and fast -- and sometimes in the interest of fashion -- NFL players are very selective about which pads they'll wear, and which will be cast aside. College players are required to wear certain pads, whereas NFL players are given the option.

"By the time you get to the league, you do whatever you can that's going to make you comfortable but you're still keeping within the integrity of the rules," said Roman Oben, a longtime NFL offensive lineman who retired after last season.

"A lot of guys don't wear thigh or knee pads. Because, to be honest, if you're going to get a deep bruise, you're going to get one anyway. Some little four-by-six covering on your thigh is not going to make a difference. It might give you some initial protection, but it's not going to prevent an injury.

"Some guys like to be totally comfortable, just shoulder pads and helmet, which are required, and then gloves and shoes and that's it."

Oben, who last played for San Diego, talked last season about the use of pads, or lack thereof. He said some pro players, particularly skill-position players, simply pass on the pads because they don't like the way the bulky protection makes them look.

"I think certain positions -- defensive backs, receivers, some running backs -- it's that way," he said. "Obviously, the closer you get to the meat and potatoes, the offensive and defensive linemen, it's not about fashion or looking good. That's the grind. But the guys out there who catch balls on an island, you get the long towels and rolled-up pants, fashion has a lot to do with that.

"Deion Sanders was notorious for getting away with as much as he could in terms of the uniform. If they say the knee's got to stop here [indicating just below the kneecap], then he'll wear it here [indicating slightly higher up his leg]. The next thing you know, guys will be wearing little girdles out there like soccer booty shorts."

Well, it might not go that far. We hope.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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