Football Neck Rolls

Football Neck Roll

Football is a collision sport, and the players are true gladiators. The physical nature of the sport requires players to wear certain pieces of protective equipment. Helmets and pads are required; however, some players choose to go further and equip a neck roll to better protect their necks.

Benefits of Football Neck Rolls

Head and neck injuries are some of the most gruesome and dangerous injuries suffered by football players. These injuries are not exclusive to the professional level, as the physicality of the game can lead to serious injuries at all levels if players are not protected by good coaching and proper gear. Neck rolls are designed to help stabilize the neck area and provide an additional layer of protection for players on collisions. 

The neck roll, also known as the “Cowboy Collar”, named for former Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston, grew in popularity during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Many of the NFL’s tough guys, such as Howie Long and Johnston, wore the neck roll on the gridiron and gave it the reputation for being a piece of gear that gritty players would wear. 

In today’s NFL, the neck roll has lost popularity as a result of style preference and improved pad technology. However, some players still wear neck rolls to prevent stingers, “a sensation that can be created when players twist their head too fast.” They can also be caused by tackles where the “shoulder is forced one way while his head and neck the other”. These plays can lead to serious injuries for players.  

Things To Consider

When looking for football neck guards, you'll want to consider the following:

  • What position do you play?
  • Have you injured your neck before?
  • How much are you looking to spend on a neck roll?
  • What type of neck roll do you want?
  • What size neck roll do you need?

What are you looking for in a football neck roll?

  • Maximum protection
  • Comfort
  • Protects an existing injury
  • Tied to your shoulder pads
  • Screwed to your shoulder pads
  • Permanently attached to your shoulder pads
  • Removable


Neck rolls come in a few different shapes and sizes that cater to different positions and player preferences. These include contoured, rounded, butterfly restrictor, and cowboy collar-style neck rolls.


Football Contoured Neck Rolls

Contoured neck rolls are sized on the height of the back portion of the horseshoe shape, ranging from an inch to three inches. These rolls are tied down to the pads, however the ties themselves are not always included with the neck roll. The price for youth models tends to be about $50. 


  • The option to tie the roll can allow for greater comfort
  • The colored ties allow for the roll to match the uniform
  • Roll height options allow for the perfect fit for each player


  • Not as much protection against stingers


Football Rounded Neck Rolls

The rounded neck roll is not too different from contoured neck rolls, but the smaller design may be preferable to some players. Generally made of foam and mesh, rounded neck rolls are a lightweight option that can provide comfort and protection. Generally, they cost under $30. 


  • Lightweight
  • Can help soak up sweat
  • Less expensive


  • Less protection than other options
  • Less durable

Butterfly Restrictor

Football Butterfly Restrictor Neck Rolls

The butterfly restrictor is a bulkier style of neck roll that can provide protection against stingers without compromising comfort or vision. Most butterfly restrictors need to be screwed into the pads directly, and they generally only will work with corresponding pads from the same company. They cost around $50-$70. 


  • Great protection against stingers
  • Built for adults
  • Designed in conjunction with D1-A Equipment Managers


  • More expensive
  • Bulkier
  • Only compatible with certain pads

Cowboy Collar

Football Cowboy Collar Neck Rolls

The cowboy collar became the popular option for NFL players in the 1980’s but has lost some popularity over the years. It is the bulkiest option for a neck roll as it can lock into the shoulder pads and help with helmet stability and neck support. 


  • Classic look
  • More protection than traditional neck rolls


  • Most expensive option
  • Bulky
  • Less popular in the modern game


There are several brand options to consider when looking for the perfect neck roll, including Douglas, Mueller, and Champro, including Douglas, Mueller, and Champro.


Douglas is one of the leading brands for football neck rolls. They offer butterfly restrictors and padded neck roll options, which allow you to find the perfect fit for optimal safety, comfort, and visibility. Douglas neck rolls are priced under $60 and can be purchased online. 


Mueller is known primarily for its butterfly restrictor, which comes in many colors to match most uniforms. It is only made for youth large and adult-sized pads, but it is easy to install on your pads. Mueller neck rolls are built for a breathable and comfortable fit. 


Champro makes both contoured and rounded neck rolls that can be purchased for under $30. They come in both youth and adult sizes. Champro neck rolls are rated as highly effective for preventing stingers while providing a comfortable, less bulky fit. 


How long will a football neck roll typically last?

Depending on the level of play and quality of gear, football pads will last no more than three years. Neck rolls are specifically designed by the companies manufacturing pads to accompany the pad if a player wants the extra protection. With the two pieces of gear going hand in hand, it would be wise to avoid using your neck roll for more than three seasons. If your pads need replacing, your neck roll does too.

What positions in football typically wear neck rolls?

Linemen, linebackers, and fullbacks most commonly wear neck rolls. Neck rolls are most often worn by players that are going to be involved with blocking and tackling. These players are involved in frequent physical contact at the line of scrimmage that can cause stingers, leaving the neck in pain. The added support for the neck and helmet that neck rolls offer can prevent those incidents for players who will be involved in a lot of collisions. 

What sizes do football neck rolls come in?

Neck rolls come in all sizes, from youth to adult. Pad manufacturers design neck rolls for their pads and often exclusively work with the same brand of pads. Therefore, regardless of the size pad you're buying, if you want to wear a neck roll it is important to make sure your pad will be able to support one. You’ll also want to make sure that you buy the same brand of pad and neck roll.

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