PRO FOOTBALL Helmet? Check. Shoulder Pads? Check. Cup? No Thanks.
N.F.L. players protect their heads. N.F.L. players protect their quarterbacks. N.F.L. players protect their home field.

Strange as it might seem, however, N.F.L. players do not protect — in any way, apparently — perhaps their most sensitive possession.

“In my life, at every level, I have never worn a cup,” Giants tight end Martellus Bennett said this week. “I don’t know anyone who has. I think most guys like to hang out and be free.”

Linebacker Mark Herzlich paused for a moment, then shook his head. “A cup? No,” he said. “I think maybe I wore one when I was in Pee-Wee football. But not since. My mom made me wear one back then. I’m not even sure I had anything to protect, really.”

Giants quarterback Eli Manning laughed — for several seconds — when the subject was posed to him. Then he composed himself and recalled that his only interaction with groin sanctuaries in football was when one of his teammates in eighth grade wore a cup. Manning reported that it was “uncomfortable.”

“I mean for me, not him,” Manning said. “He was the center and so he was snapping the ball to me all the time. Having the cup there, it hurt my hand.”

Snickers and smiles aside, damage to players’ delicate zones has recently become something of a more pressing, if not altogether painful, topic in the N.F.L., as there have been several high-profile incidents involving foot-to-groin contact. Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh drew scorn, and a $30,000 fine, for kicking Houston quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin last month.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES