July 20, 2016
Technology has the power to make nearly everything in our lives better. It also could have the power to make our sports better or at least provide in-game analytics that could change them for the better.
In two recent articles, the Toronto Star reported on ways in which the NFL and teams are using technology to try to improve the game.
In http://www.torontosun.com/2016/06/21/nfl-teams-trying-to-reduce-fumbles-with-beeping-footballs">one article, it details how teams are using sound-producing footballs to cut down on fumbles. The ball beeps or whistles when a player is holding it in the correct way.
Players have to hold the ball at five fundamental points of pressure to cause the ball to beep. When done correctly, it beeps at around 80 decibels. This way, players can work on ball security in noncontact and contact drills. A player can have his career cut short if coaches deem that he has a fumble problem. Running backs, in particular, don’t want to get labeled as a player who fumbles.
Division II Northwood University http://www.ourmidland.com/sports/article/Northwood-assistant-coach-Creguer-s-innovative-8358315.php">coach Tom Creguer developed the new football, which he dubbed the http://www.highandtight.com/">“High and Tight,” or HnTv1 for short. The ball weighs 1.6 pounds more than the average game ball and costs $150.
Several NFL teams are already using this new ball, including the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints, among others. Several college and high-school teams are also using the High and Tight.
NFL teams aren’t the only ones using technology to improve the game, though. The league itself has decided to add http://www.torontosun.com/2016/07/17/exclusive-nfl-set-to-study-narrower-uprights">custom computer chips to kicking balls, or “K balls,” during the preseason and in regular-season games on Thursday night.
These chipped balls will give the NFL Competition Committee valuable information next offseason to determine if the goal posts should be narrowed to make extra points and field goals more challenging.
Even with moving extra points back to a 33-yard kick, players still made 85 percent of their attempts. The league wants to make extra points count and add some excitement to the play, and narrowing the goal posts could be a solution.
The current distance between posts is 18 feet and 6 inches. In the 2015 Pro Bowl, the league used goal post at 14 feet.
There could be more advantages to chipped footballs, which the NFL could decide to use on every play in the future.
A ball with a chip in it could give officials a more accurate placement when the defense tackles the carrier. In games where officials question whether a player reached a first down or not, chipped balls would provide the right spot.
This technology could also determine if a player has crossed the goal line. This might help if a player is in a scrum, making the ball less visible to the officials.
Two things could hold back the use of chipped balls on every play.
First, quarterbacks will have a major say about whether the balls will become a regular part of gameplay. If they don’t feel right or don’t act the same way when thrown, game balls won’t be changed until the highest-paid players give their approval.
Secondly, research has shown that chipped balls aren’t as accurate under a pile of players. This will have to improve to really be of value in games.
Technology might one day give us a chip or something similar to know when a player’s knee or other body part is down and the play is over. Stopping plays faster would also make the game safer.
Currently, NFL players wear RFID chips that track their location, exertion levels and other data sets.