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How Technology is Changing the NFL

By: Nick Gambino

The Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos are gearing up to the take the field for Super Bowl 50 this Sunday so we thought it would be a good time to take a look at how advancements in technology are changing the game of football.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “What do the tech nerds at NewsWatch know about Football?” Well, I can tell you that every Monday and Thursday night and every Sunday you’ll fine me parked on the couch yelling obscenities and cheering – sometimes both at once.

NFL games have always been exciting. While some prefer to watch college football, there’s nothing like watching seasoned pros like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady pull off physics-defying feats. It’s equally exciting watching receivers like Odell Beckham Jr. or Richard Rodgers leap into the heavens to snag a ball that would whiz over the head of any mere mortal.

But if you go back only 10 or 15 years, the way in which we consumed the game was entirely different. Not only that but the way the players and coaching staff ran things on the sidelines or communicated plays to the quarterback would be, by today’s standards, crude.

Let’s go over a few technological advancements which have rushed their way into the NFL.


The quarterback generally has a radio in his helmet that allows him to receive play calls from the coaches. The NFL allows the QB and one defensive player to use this radio system, making play-calling a heck of a lot easier than back in the day.

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09

While this system has been in use since 1994, they were switched out and upgraded to digital headsets as recent as 2012. This was a major leg-up over an antiquated analog system that would experience constant interference.

Helmets equipped with a radio are marked with a green dot so the referees are kept in the know.


If you ever so much as stopped on an NFL game for 20 seconds, there’s a good chance you’ve seen numerous coaches and players swiping through a smart tablet – specifically the Microsoft Surface.

Using the Surface, NFL players can review 4 photos of the play taken just before and just after the snap. With football being a very strategic game, this has been a huge help. Now they’re testing out video replays directly on the tablet so those players involved can see what went wrong or, in some cases, right.

Mic’d Up Players

Beyond occasionally catching a word or two from the sidelines or after a play (usually an expletive) we were never really privy to the on-field dialogue, though we knew there was some trash talking going down.

Now with the Mic’d Up feature popping up during NFL games we get a replay of field antics with full audio by specific players wearing mics. Sure these are choice pieces, edited to ensure we don’t hear anything non-family friendly but still it brings us deeper into the game.

Advances in Tech – Advances in Safety

Even if you don’t keep yourself abreast of the latest in NFL news, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the concussion scandal that went down a few years back. In fact, the recent movie Concussion starring Will Smith covers this scandal in detail.

Concussions left undiagnosed or untreated or worse, compounded, may have fatal effects. Investigation has shown that there are hundreds of concussions received by players in a single NFL season.

Seattle-based company Vicis, through a grant from the NFL has designed and developed a flexible football helmet, the Zero1. Through its ingenious design, some of it borrowed from the automotive industry, this helmet may save lives.

It will allow for impact to be absorbed and players’ heads to be protected which is lightyears beyond the capabilities of current helmets.

Watch the Game Without a TV

Back in the day there were only three ways to experience a football game as a fan. You can either attend the game, watch it on TV or listen to it on the radio.

With the advance of mobile technology and the internet you can do a lot more than that. On a recent road trip I was able to watch a game right through the NBC app on my iPad.

The NFL app allows you to watch games if you’re a Verizon smartphone customer. (Way to exclude people, NFL.) Network apps like NBC give you access to games that they broadcast on TV.

This year the Super Bowl is airing on CBS and so the network is streaming the game free on their CBS app on devices like the Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox One and Android TV. If you’re a Verizon mobile customer you can stream through your mobile device.

In Conclusion

Being an avid couched NFL game viewer but also an occasional NFL game attendee, I’ll tell you there’s nothing that beats actually going to a live NFL game – nothing. But with quantum leaps in technology the game is more accessible than ever before.


Nick Gambino is a regular script writer and tech beat reporter for NewsWatch.  He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.


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