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The story behind Justin Tuck's Facemask


It's being called many things.

Shredder. Optimus Prime. Or, in keeping with the Comic-Con theme, The Fortress of Solitude.

But here Justin Tuck lets you in on the true inspiration for his new facemask.

"You see the old school trains, the grilles on the old school trains," he said after the final minicamp practice on Thursday. "That's what I was going for."

An extension of what he switched to last fall, the new cage was debuted this week by Tuck, who dares anyone to aggravate his neck again with the protection of 12 diagonal bars and five horizontal ones. Before this locomotive of a facemask, Tuck had six sideways bars (none diagonal), which he first wore in early October last season to limit the surface for opponents to grab onto.

Now his teammates are clamoring for one just like it.

"Everybody is like, 'Can I get that facemask?' No, it's exclusive to me, no one else can have it," Tuck said. "But it's a copycat league in everything people do so I wouldn't be surprised if there are a few of those floating around before we play."

If so, they'll have to ask equipment director Joe Skiba, who sketched the designs before sending it off to the manufacturer, Schutt Sports. And once it was ready, Skiba says, the question became when to debut it. The cat came out of the bag on Tuesday and there's no turning back.

"The idea is he doesn't want to get grabbed," said Skiba, who was honored this offseason with the Whitey Zimmerman Equipment Manager of the Year Award. "But then it becomes one of those situations where when you make a facemask with so many bars like that how much weight is going to be too much weight. So what Schutt did was we made that out of titanium, which is light as a feather. You can feel his helmet now, it feels just as light." 

What some people fail to realize, though, is that defensive tackle Chris Canty began the craze and had been wearing the six-bar mask to protect his eyes.

"So what happened was I think Justin was working out and Chris was working out and they were like, 'Hey, man, our masks are everywhere now,'" Skiba recalled, referring to Tuck's old one and the one Canty still wears. "Just like anything else, players want to be, not individuals, but they kind of want their own creative look…All of a sudden this is like the evolution of the goalie mask."

Teammates have taken notice and could be seen going in for a closer examination in between minicamp drills. Newcomer and defensive tackle Shaun Rogers is even going as far as to say each defensive lineman should have his own customized look.

"Shaun Rogers was saying the other day all the defensive linemen should have different cages," Skiba said. "He's just creating work for me. But it's funny because they see Justin's mask and then Justin is like, 'No, no, that's my mask, that's my mask.'"

Meanwhile, Skiba says Jason Pierre-Paul is happy with his ROPO-DW facemask, which isn't anything too crazy.

But that doesn't mean there won't be more to come when training camp rolls around next month. Skiba hinted there will be something more for Tuck, Canty and the rest of the group that will be "painstaking" for the manufacturer.

"I have something planned in the near future," Skiba said. "It will be very interesting to do. It's just like anything else, we have a backup for Justin already because this thing has already taken on a life of its own. It's all over the place already, so maybe in Albany we'll break something out for Albany. Then opening day we'll break out something for opening day."


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