NEW YORK (AP) — The toughest opponent for many NFL players and coaches during the blazing hot days of training camp sits far above the football field.
The sun's powerful ultraviolet rays are a leading cause of skin cancer, and shade is rare at most practice sites. So, slathered-on sunscreen, big bucket hats, long-sleeved T-shirts and slick sunglasses serve as lead blockers.
"I do it regularly, being red-haired with freckles, Irish heritage," Dolphins offensive tackle Sam Young said of using sunscreen. "I go to a dermatologist once a year to make sure everything is good."
Young doubles up on the protection by also wearing long sleeves during practice, despite steamy conditions that are more suited for lounging at the beach than playing on a football field.
"To me, it's not worth the risk," said Young, who grew up in South Florida and has family members who have had skin cancer. "I try to be as practical as I can about it. Sleeves mean one less thing to have to worry about."
And, there are plenty of concerns for those who spend so many hours on sun-splashed fields.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. The organization estimates there will be 5.4 million new cases of non-melanoma this year among 3.3 million people, and 91,270 new cases of melanoma — a more serious and aggressive form of skin cancer. Melanoma is usually curable, however, when detected in its early stages.
The NFL and American Cancer Society teamed up this summer to launch an initiative as part of its "Crucial Catch" campaign in which free sunscreen is being provided to players, coaches, fans, team employees and media at camps around the country. Some sites — such as at Jets and Giants camp — have several receptacles where people can get sunscreen from a dispenser, while packets of lotion are being handed out at others.
"One of the things we try do here that we haven't done before (is) to look at the skin cancer part of it," first-year Lions coach Matt Patricia said, "and see if there's anything you have questions about as a person, 'Hey, this doesn't look right,' or, 'What do you think about this?'"
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he's had a spot "removed or checked on" in annual skin cancer checks during physical exams. He and some of his assistants normally wear long shirts under their T-shirts during practice — despite the Georgia heat and humidity.
"We all remind one another," Quinn said. "For the players and for the coaches, we always have the lotion that we need or the spray to use. They're pretty mindful."
Well, some are.
Plenty of players acknowledge they often hit the field focused more on picking up blocks than putting on sunblock.
"I probably should, but I'm just too lazy," said Washington receiver Trey Quinn.