April 13, 2024
Technology

NFL chain gangs could be replaced by tracking technology


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INDIANAPOLIS – So long, chain gangs?

We may have finally seen the end of rulings during NFL games that are determined by bringing out the chains. The NFL tested camera technology last season – including during Super Bowl 58 — that captured player and football positioning in real time and confirmed some sticky, close calls.

Full implementation of such “optimal tracking” could be next.

Troy Vincent, the NFL’s top football executive, outlined with several members of the league’s football operations staff, potential ways that high technology could be used during NFL games – perhaps as early as the upcoming 2024 season.

In addition to using the camera technology for line-to-gain rulings, the league’s competition committee has also weighed incorporate hi-resolution cameras for the instant replay of goal line, sideline and end line plays.

And it’s also possible that the league will use a “Skeletrak System” that tracks the football, players and officials to assist with other officiating calls. Examples of how that system potentially could be applied might involve determining whether a pass was forward or backward (think the cross-field lateral on the “Music City Miracle”) or on plays where it is questionable whether the quarterback was out of the pocket.

Vincent and members of his staff discussed the possibilities during a briefing with a small group of media that included USA TODAY Sports during the NFL scouting combine on Thursday.

In addition to Super Bowl 58, the line-to-gain tests occurred during regular-season games in New York and Miami last season.

Also, during four preseason games in 2023, the league tested officials wearing smart watches that aided in officiating. The watches (also tested with an alternate official during Super Bowl 58) buzzed, for instance, if the clock expired to prompt a delay-of-game penalty.

NFL owners would still need to approve such new technology, with any proposal for a change requiring at least 24 votes from owners. But clearly the tests and consideration from the competition committee suggest that a slice of the NFL future could be coming soon to a stadium – and television – near you.



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