High-Tech, Chip-Enabled Balls Get NFL Okay

One problem: They don’t track PSI levels

By Evan Bleier

 
Here's What the Computer Chips the NFL Is Putting in Balls Can Do
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19 July 2016

When Tom Brady takes the field this preseason before serving his four-game suspension, he’s going to have a chip on his shoulder — and one in his regulation-inflated football.

The NFL has informed its teams that it plans to use a chip-equipped ball for all plays during preseason games, a practice that could extend to the league’s slate of Thursday contests as well.

The special balls — which were tested by veteran quarterbacks for feel and performance in the air — will collect location data, which the league may use to make changes as soon as next season.

For instance, the data chips will track how close balls come to the goalposts during field goals and extra points, so the NFL can decide whether to narrow the uprights to make kicks more difficult. They will also collect on-field location data that could affect how first-down measurements and goal line calls are made.  

This isn’t the first time the NFL has used chips to gather information (players and officials wore radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips to track location and exertion levels last season), but it is the first time the information could have such an immediate impact on the game.

“We’ll see what the data tells us,”  NFL officiating VP Dean Blandino told the Toronto Sun. “The committee will discuss it and then make a recommendation for 2017 if they feel that we need to go that route. But I wouldn’t know at this point, without seeing how it goes this year.”

Here's a prediction: Narrowing the space between the goal posts still won’t make kickers cool, but it’s a start.

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