Ravens defensive lineman Chris Canty has been granted medical clearance to wear a special face mask, according to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.

In an email to The Baltimore Sun, McCarthy confirmed that both Canty and New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck were given permission to wear the face masks.

Canty suffered a serious eye injury eight years ago. Tuck is dealing with a recurring neck injury.

Canty wears a dark visor attached to his helmet. The face mask provides plenty of protection with several horizontal and vertical bars. It also creates something of an intimidation factor for the imposing 6-foot-7, 317-pounder.

Canty's teammates with the Giants once referred to his face mask as "The Big Grille," with a Facebook page devoted to the headgear as well.

"I invented it," Canty said. "It's that simple. I can't play without it.  I can't help it that other guys think it's cool and they want to wear it, too. It's a necessity for me."

Canty wears the face mask because of a serious eye injury suffered before the 2005 NFL draft.

While Canty was trying to leave a bar after a fight broke out that he wasn't involved in, one of the combatants threw a beer bottle that struck Canty in the eye. It detached his retina, which required emergency surgery and saved his eyesight.

Now Canty takes no chances when it comes to protecting his damaged left eye.

With this kind of face mask where blockers can't get close to his eye, Canty is at virtually no risk of aggravating his eye.

"I started playing with it since my rookie year in Dallas following the eye incident before the draft," Canty said. "We developed something that can keep hands out of my face, so it wouldn't detach my retina again."

Meanwhile, the NFL denied Indianapolis Colts defensive end Robert Mathis' request to wear a special face mask.

"It's official, the league says I can't wear my face mask," Mathis wrote on Twitter. "I will return to my run of the mill grill."

awilson@baltsun.com

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