Russell Athletic's new carbon-fiber shoulder pads also happen to be the company's first pair of shoulder pads, period. The exoskeleton of the CarbonTek pads is a shell of aeronautical-grade carbon fiber, but that component only represents half of the system. In fact, the system's other important piece—a breathable, protective compression vest—was developed first.
That vest is packed with a network of golf-ball-sized, rubbery-foam bubbles, and it's noticeably heavier than the carbon-fiber shell that slips over it. Combined with the carbon-fiber exoskeleton, the compression vest is designed to disperse impact throughout the torso, supposedly making big hits feel less sharp at the point of impact. It's also designed to be used for base protection without the exoskeleton during non-contact drills.