Monday, September 8, 2008


One of the most intriguing on-field developments in this NFL season that affects every team isn't strictly about the veterans moving to new team, rookies being thrown into the fire or injuries that will surely test the mettle of all players.

It's a small green dot.
Earlier this year, the owners of the thirty-two franchises voted to give the defense the same communication abilities that quarterbacks have enjoyed since 1994. The league installed a coach-to-defense system that affords a designated player the same benefit. While the notion that defensive players are less cerebral than their offensive counterparts still exists as more or less a joke, this new tool allows defensive coordinators to prepare their packages at the instant that they see something on the field. While it’s a subtle change to those of us who don’t suit up on Sundays (or at all), it’s a tremendous difference in the game for whomever adorns the dot.

When in the lockerroom for the New York Beacon on Thursday after Giants' season-opening win over Washington, middle linebacker Antonio Pierce described to me what it's like to wear the headset (full quote here):

“It was good in that two minute drill, I’ll tell you that…it’s worked out, you know. You don’t have to look to the sidelines to get the play, get it through the helmet. It’s still different. It’s tough when the crowd gets loud when they do and I love when they are loud, you know. It’s good for us at home, but it s*cks when you’re trying to get the calls in the headset.”
In Week 2, look for whichever defensive players have the helmets. Some teams select their middle linebackers (or Mike) in the 4-3 defense or one of the inside LBs in the 3-4 alignment. As the ‘quarterback of the defense’, the middle or inside linebacker is the walking playbook for his teammates and is the one who dictates where players move. Because he is usually positioned in line with the center, quarterback and running back(s), his vision of the entire field makes him the likely candidate to directly receive the coaches’ calls.

A couple of teams chose defensive backs, such as two NFC West squads in San Francisco and St. Louis. Last week, the Rams had veteran strong safety Corey Chavous wear the dotted helmet, which may or may not correlated to their spanking in Philadelphia at the hands of the Eagles. The FOX announcers on hand - though it was a curious decision, but when they play the Giants at home this Sunday, we’ll see if defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will keep the helmet on Chavous or someone else.

For a much more in-depth look into these helmet radios, read Vic Carruci's article on

Say What?!?!: With the new season comes new ads from the same old companies looking for a bit more market share. As much as they maddeningly fall over themselves for NFL real estate, this is just special.

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