There will be something new in each football NFL teams will use this season: an radio-frequency identification chip.
The league used RFID chips in kicking balls for preseason and Thursday night games last season. With them, the league could gather infor
mation on how closely the ball passed the uprights to give to the competition committee vital information on if there should be a rule change to narrow the uprights.
This year the information from the chips will assist broadcasters with the league’s Next-Gen Stats program, though it still isn’t ready to help with spotting the ball.
The chip is as much as 6 inches off in accuracy, which is enough distance to impact a game late when a team needs a first down to run out the clock or keep a potential game-winning or -tying drive alive.
Players already have a similar chip in shoulder pads to track their movement. If the technology improves, the uses could be used in nearly every aspect of the game.
One day it might be possible to put a chip in players’ knee pads, elbow pads or other places on the body to pinpoint the exact location of when a player went down through contact. Improved accuracy in the ball and other chips on players could be used to get an exact spot late in games.
Touchdowns could, one day, be as simple as a ball with a chip breaking the end zone’s plain. Once the chip registers that the ball has crossed, the officials could stop the play quicker to protect the players. Chips in other parts of a player’s body could tell if he was down before the ball broke the plain of the goal line.
A chip in gloves might be able to tell if the player caught a ball or it hit the field.
In the future the whole field could be monitored with these RFID chips, and there may be health reasons to improve the technology. For example, a chip in the helmet could be used to improve tackling or show when players are struck in the head on any given play. Even more important, it could be used to show if players are striking with their head first during a play.
Technology won’t ever replace the officials on the field, but it could make their job easier. It could help eliminate controversy late in games on close calls.
Replay technology and chip technology could work hand-in-hand in spotting the ball or signaling a touchdown. If it makes for a better officiated game, what fan wouldn’t want to these chips from improving the game that they love?