While pro football has made significant progress since the days of claiming there was no conclusive link between blows to the head and brain disease/dementia, CNBC’s Darren Rovell writes the NFL’s deal with helmet manufacturer Ridell receives a thumbs down from the league’s own watchdog group.

Dr. Hunt Batjer, co-chair of the NFL™s Head, Neck and Spine Committee was asked whether the NFL should have an official provider of helmets.

œMy preference would be that it did not, Batjer said. œCertainly there is not now nor will there be any restriction for any player on which device they use as long as the helmets are tested and they pass the NOCSAE standard.

Players can use helmets made by Riddell competitors like Schutt and Xenith, but, through a deal made with the league through 2013, Riddell is the only helmet manufacturer that can have its name on the helmets.

Still, the doctors on the panel were not comfortable with the impression that the official deal leaves with consumers. œIn my opinion, it is not a good thing, Dr. Robert Cantu, senior advisor to the NFL™s Head, Neck and Spine Committee. œIt does give the perception, if not the reality, of an uneven playing field.

Cantu went on to say that if the league is going to get behind one helmet company it should be supported by œon the field head-to-head comparison of all helmets.

In the best interest of player safety, it certainly provided an awkward moment for one of the NFL™s sponsors, as league commissioner Roger Goodell (above) hinted that Riddell™s future of having exclusive on the field helmet branding rights might be numbered.

œWhen (the license expires), we will welcome all helmets from a commercial standpoint on the field, Goodell said.