How Technology Continues to Reshape the Way Football Is Played in the NFL

Alex Dunlap@AlexDunlapNFLContributor IMay 17, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11:  Jeff Immelt (L), chairman and CEO of General Electric, and Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League (NFL), attend a news conference March 11, 2013 New York City. The two were on hand to introduce an initiative and research program to study concussions in an effort to improve the safety of professional football players,  (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)
Allison Joyce/Getty Images

We live in interesting times. There are thousands of you,,and just a little under half will be reading on mobile devices.

If there's one industry that keeps up with stats, tendencies, information—any possible opportunity for a "leg up"—it's the NFL.

As technology evolves, so will the game as we know it. Sometimes in ways that may seem completely unrelated given our current perspective.


Here Are 3 Things I'll Bet You Didn't Know 

1. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello says the league is open to a "First Down Laser System."

The (usually yellow) "first­-down line" that NFL fans have grown accustomed to seeing on television may be making its way to real-­life. Per The Associated Press, via

Alan Amron, with financial backing from former NFL player and broadcaster Pat Summerall, has developed the First Down Laser System. Amron says the system projects a first­down line across the field that can be seen in the stadium and on TV.

2. In 10 years, we are likely to be able to "see concussions."

With the digital imaging tests currently available to our medical community, concussions are tricky.

Contrary to popular belief, concussions don't really show up on CT scans, according to Chris Hummel via, clinical associate professor in Ithaca College's Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences:

A concussion results from a neuro­metabolic event brought on by the trauma. Simply put, there is an imbalance of the needed chemicals or fuel that helps the brain function when an athlete is concussed. That's not a structural injury, so a CT scan won't pick it up. CT scans can only view structural damage.

Chis Nowinski, former college football player at Harvard and the co­-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine thinks the next 10 years will come with huge findings now that the resources are being allocated to working on this issue, according to Judy Battista, The New York Times:

We’re so close to having tracers to be able to diagnose this in living people with accuracy. Who knows what the next 10 years looks like? The clinical trials we may be able to start soon, and the actual hope for effective treatment, it’s all real.

The ability to identify concussions through real imaging may come with a sobering reality, however.

These guys might just be getting concussed a lot more often than we think.  


3. James Harrison was wearing a kevlar-­lined helmet when he rocked Colt McCoy.

Speaking of concussions, everyone remembers James Harrison's monster hit on former Browns QB Colt McCoy in November of 2011.

It was the hit that basically derailed a slow­-developing career that seemed to be finally winding into form under a doomed coaching staff in Cleveland.

While McCoy's brain eggs were busy being scrambled during the collision, Harrison's dome was housed cozily within a protective kevlar lining inside his helmet.

This brings up an interesting thought. Is it fair for only certain players to "wear armor"? Did the kevlar in Harrison's helmet in any way make the hit worse?

The kevlar material was worn by numerous players in 2012, the most infamous of which was Eagles QB Mike Vick, who wore a kevlar flak-­jacket to protect his ribs.

It may not turn a player into a cyborg-­football­-machine, but it is effective enough to "guarantee" even a high-­risk player like Vick would not be injured while wearing it.

How long before they all are? 


In Some Ways, the Direction We Are Moving in Is Terrible

"Players tweeting during the Pro Bowl."

There is not one thing about that sentence that I don't hate.

The Pro Bowl itself is a steaming hunk of garbage that celebrates entitled, narcissistic play and represents risk. How fitting that the worst idea ever—"Twitter stations" where players can live­-tweet during games—would get its start at this event.

And social media isn't going anywhere. Greg Aiello says we might as well embrace it, according to Bill Reiter, Fox Sports:

That was unique to a game like the Pro Bowl where we’ve always done different things like miking coaches and players and a lot of interviews on the sidelines because of the nature of the game it is: a celebration, and it’s different than the regular season and playoffs, but I think it’s a reflection of where we’re heading in terms of interacting with fans through social media.

We may not be seeing players tweet live on the sidelines during the regular season anytime soon, but the door is certainly open to these types of distractions as the NFL continues toward “engaging customers” in the ever­evolving market we find ourselves in. 


This is War

Steven Burkett is the founder of Eye­Scout, a technology previously used for military purposes that is aimed to digitize NFL players' on­field movements in real­time for instant analysis by their coaching staff. Quote is from the linked piece above on Fox Sports:

We’re already doing that in the military, digitalizing soldiers’ movement on the field. That’s already happening. We should be able to take the information from the field, just from cameras, and digitalize it. Just like in Madden where you can take the camera and zoom in on, say, the quarterback’s hand when he releases the ball. You should be able to do the same thing. You won’t be watching film anymore, you’ll be watching a digitalized image of what actually happened in such incredible details.


Bottom Line

There's a part of you that isn't comfortable with the fact that the NFL has been talking about using microchip technology in footballs that would make spotting the ball an exact science.

That is, until your team gets hosed on a bad call that costs them a playoff berth.

Then, everyone cries, "The team invests so much into this! The fans invest so much into this! How can one lapse in judgement from an official take away all the players' hard work?!"

Because it's a game. Because the ball doesn't bounce the same way twice.

All players (and fans) can ask for is 60 minutes of football, and a level playing field. It's the way the field will be leveled as we move forward that will be most interesting to watch. After all, we live in interesting times.


Follow Alex Dunlap on Twitter.


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