SBD/August 4, 2014/Media

NFL Introduces Tablets To Sidelines, But Some Issues Arise During First Usage

There will be 13 tablets on each sideline and another 12 in the coaches' box
Tablets were allowed on NFL sidelines for the first time during last night's Giants-Bills Pro Football HOF game, although a "few kinks had to be worked out early on," according to Rachel Cohen of the AP. Bills coach Doug Marrone said of the Surface tablets from league partner Microsoft, "I was told mine was going to work, and mine didn't work." He added that the tablet "did work in the second half and he 'liked it a lot.'" Cohen noted the devices "will replicate the old system of transmitting still photos to the field -- but faster, clearer and in color." From a football standpoint, there will be "no watching replays of the last snap." NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that adding video "is possible in the future." Cohen noted that "would need to go through the league's competition committee, just as the introduction of tablets did." The tablets "will be locked in a temperature-controlled cart by the NFL during the week." They will "operate on a secure wireless network in stadiums." There "will be 13 on each sideline and another 12 in the coaches' box." Other than that, the only people on the sideline "allowed to carry digital devices are the medical staff." If the tablets "malfunction for one team before the game, then they're disabled for both clubs." But if they crash after kickoff, the other squad "can keep using them, to prevent coaches from pretending that the devices aren't working" (AP, 8/3).

INS & OUTS: In L.A., Clay Fowler notes two pictures per play -- "one just before the snap and one after the play is over -- are all the league allows." In a matter of seconds after the play, images "will appear on the tablets." Coaches "can 'favorite' an image and send it into its own folder to be quickly accessed at another time." Considering the "secrecy involved with game-planning, the devices will be maintained on a closed network operated by a neutral party -- the NFL -- in order to assure security" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/3). NBC's Michelle Tafoya last night during the Giants-Bills game noted coaches now can "zoom in, zoom out, illustrate over them, you can mark favorites that you can use later in the game" (Giants-Bills, NBC, 8/3). The photos can be tagged, expanded, shrunk or affixed with written notes using a telestrator. The digital color photos expand well beyond the binders of printed black-and-white play photographs traditionally used on the sidelines. The tablets themselves will have custom protective cases and tougher screens designed to withstand outdoor elements. The digital photo effort has been under development since Microsoft and the NFL signed their broad-based technology partnership in May ’13 (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
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