(One of the 3 video tablets used on Colts' sideline Saturday night)
ST. LOUIS --- The Colts and Rams were part of an NFL Preseason experiment Saturday night, with each team being allowed to have team-shot video loaded into three Microsoft Surface tablets on the sidelines. Last season, the NFL began allowing more than twenty tablets on the sidelines per team but only photos are currently available in them during the regular season.
Rams Head Coach Jeff Fischer is on the NFL Competition Committee, making St. Louis one of the host sites for this video tablet trial during the preseason. After the game, Colts players on both sides of the line of scrimmage gave the new video tablets rave reviews.
"It should be implemented this year for sure, said Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson after the game, who is entering his 9th regular season in the NFL.
Jackson acknowledged getting the video tablets for this regular season is highly unlikely, as the Competition Committee is only in the experimentation phase right now, but his comment gives you an idea how much he liked it.
"I'll tell you what. It should have been implemented a long time ago. It makes grading a play a lot easier. It's very effective," said Jackson. "I'm hearing that it's something that won't be permanently implemented for another two years, but I think we should speed that process up. It's amazing."
Other players agreed.
"I know I speak for the offensive side of the ball, but it's something that would be very beneficial," said Colts center Khaled Holmes after the game Saturday night. "The still images are helpful, but to be able to watch the entire procedure of the play, it's obviously very helpful."
"I think what we all liked was you can see in real time what's going on," said tackle/guard Joe Reitz, saying the videos made in-game adjustments much easier. "Before, you had the pictures. So you have the beginning shot, the mid-play, but sometimes it's hard to tell what happened."
Reitz says he has also enjoyed to photo tablets too, as opposed to "flipping through 60 pages", but not all players transitioned to the Surface tablets when they debuted in 2014, opting to still utilize the old-fashioned three-ring binders full of overhead photographs of previous plays. Jackson was one of those players.
"Now when we were trying to adopt the (Microsoft Surface photo tablet), when we have gloves it's hard to scroll back and move plays," said Jackson. "It's got to be bare-skinned. It becomes a little difficult for the players to look through it. So, I go back to the old school way with the paper."
But Saturday night was different.
"Now the fact that the video is there, you can see the entire play," said Jackson. "It's like watching the (video) you would get after a game but during the game. So, it makes it a lot easier, a lot cleaner to clean plays up if we need to."
Jackson said it allowed his teammates and him to see who made a mistake and jumped out of gaps after a defensive series, allowing them to correct it on the following drives.
For the offensive line, there were specific benefits as well. On this night, Colts Offensive Line Coach Joe Gilbert was almost exclusively using one of the three video tablets, as opposed to the remaining photo tablets.
"You can see the defense, how they're playing in certain situations. You can see your footwork as an offensive lineman," explained Reitz. "I think it's definitely a beneficial tool. I think, obviously, we'd all love to have it happen all the time."
"With five of us having to be on the same page trying to move forward, if there's a mistake, it just really helps the offensive line," said Holmes.
Logistically, the Microsoft Surface video tablets also functioned well, as is often the biggest obstacle when trying to implement new technology.
"There weren't any kinks. It was seamless, in my opinion," said Jackson. "I think it's something that we should have. It's really beneficial for every phase of the game."
"Yeah, I thought it was great," echoed Reitz on the video tablets working logistically. "Coach Gilbert did a great job of the plays where we needed to see certain things. You don't have time to watch every play, but he did a great job. 'Play two and play five something happened. Let's watch it. Let's make the corrections, and let's get going.' I think that helped and helped our performance."
So will these video tablets soon be coming to a sideline near you? If these three players had a say in it, they would be there as soon as possible.