Bills linebacker Keith Rivers: Tablets could revolutionize studying plays during games

NFL: Preseason-Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos

Technology has transformed our lives so much in the past 10 years. We’ve all had conversations about how it has led to more communication, but less substance. Talking on the phone has gone the way of Betamax. Sports on the field of play, however, has been one thing technology hasn’t affected as much . . . or so you may have thought.

I was drafted into the NFL in 2008. At the time, iPads and tablets did not exist. Our playbooks on offense, defense and special teams were compiled in big five-inch and three-inch binders. We were issued DVDs to study our opponent’s film at home. Those DVDs probably ended up being used as coasters in some guys’ houses. I preferred to watch film on the big screen at the facility.

During the spring of 2010, the first generation iPads came out. That season, a few teams started putting film on iPads. It was a godsend.  Although it was a drawn-out process — we had to drop the iPad off with video guys — we had the ability to watch film on a device without changing DVDs like a DJ rumbling through crates for records. We thought the use of iPads was innovative at the time, but now it seems like dial-up Internet.

(Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)
(Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)

Special programs currently exist that give us the ability to rewind with less effort, send questions to coaches and get voice notes from the coaching staff. When we are connected to WiFi, new play cut-ups and notifications pop up. Gone are the days of coming to the facility on Tuesday nights to get a leg up on the installation for that week’s game plan.

With all the advancements in film study, we couldn’t help but wonder when sideline technology would catch up. Well, it finally has. For our first two preseason games this year, we’ve been provided Microsoft Surface tablets on our sidelines. The tablets show us clear images of each play. Before this, teams relied on grainy photos of each play. With the Surface,  you can enlarge the image and get the problem play corrected.  It will be interesting to see how the new tablets hold up in adverse weather conditions, and once players’ and coaches’ tempers begin to erupt.


Keith Rivers is in his seventh year in the NFL and currently plays linebacker for the Buffalo Bills. He was drafted ninth overall in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in Policy, Planning and Development.

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