NFL developing plans to put radio receivers in helmets of every offensive player
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Plain Dealer Reporter
If you are sitting in Cleveland Browns Stadium cheering your lungs out, which would you rather see?
A) Peyton Manning gesticulating wildly like a hypercaffeinated traffic cop while trying to call signals because you and the other 73,000 fans are screaming so loudly that he can barely hear himself think?
Peyton Manning calmly changing plays at the line of scrimmage because his teammates can hear him loud and clear, despite decibel levels exceeding that of a Motorhead concert?
If NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has his way, option B may be in the future.
The league is developing plans to put radios in the helmets of all offensive players, which would allow them to hear the quarterback's signals and line calls, essentially negating the advantage a home team's "12th man" provides.
The system is scheduled for testing during the NFL Europe season in 2008. The league's competition committee then will decide whether to implement it in the NFL.
Goodell said during a news conference in September that offenses should be given a chance to use their entire package of plays inside loud, hostile stadiums.
He cited a 2006 playoff game in Seattle where the New York Giants offense had particular problems hearing and was flagged several times with illegal procedure penalties.
"I love the 12th man," Goodell said. "I love the fact that home fans can influence the game. I'm not trying to take that away. I'm just trying to let our teams perform at the highest possible level in a way that will allow our fans to enjoy the experience as much as possible."
Lairdy Lee, owner of the Jigsaw Saloon in Parma, one of the host sites for a Browns Backers group, said the idea stinks.
"Nobody should even go to the game anymore," he said. "We should sit at home and watch it, because you can't be part of the game. You pay money to go there and be loud. Coaches coach, players play and we scream our heads off."
Browns defensive tackle Nick Eason agrees. When asked what he thought of the idea, his answer was an unequivocal "Hell, no."
"They protect quarterbacks in this league, sometimes too much," Eason said. "I don't want to get to the point where it's flag football."
Quarterbacks have had radio receivers in their helmets since the 1995 season. A coach standing on the sideline is allowed to communicate plays to the quarterback until there are 15 seconds left on the 40-second play clock. (An NFL official hits a button that mutes any communication between the sideline and the quarterback when the play clock reaches 15 seconds.)
The two people in charge of the Browns' game-day communication, the father-and-son team of Bob Myers Sr. and Bob Myers Jr., are a little skeptical about the logistics of such a system. It's not uncommon for quarterbacks' helmet receivers to malfunction early in the season when the weather is warm and players sweat more.
"Multiply that by 11 and it could be an equipment nightmare," Bob Myers Jr. said.
Browns quarterback Derek Anderson warmed to the idea after considering its implications.
"It would be fun," he said. "There's a lot of things you can do. You'd get in more offensive plays and you wouldn't have to huddle up."
Loud stadiums mean that teams sometimes simplify their game plans, Anderson said. The inability to audible at the line of scrimmage means that offenses will have to run the play initially called, despite adjustments that defenses have made before the snap.
The Browns' Joshua Cribbs thinks it's a great idea. He and his fellow receivers have the most problems hearing the quarterback.
"It's a way to modernize the sport," Cribbs said. "Football's been around for a while. I'm all for change."
Browns offensive tackle Kevin Shaffer acknowledged that offenses could benefit, but he prefers the status quo.
Only some of the quarterback's signals pertain to offensive linemen, who are busy talking to each other, Shaffer said. He's more concerned about the effect on the fans. The home-field advantage is too important to be minimized by technology, he said.
"It's an advantage you want to keep," Shaffer said. "You want the crowd to be loud, to yell and scream. It would almost be like they're yelling and screaming for no reason if you know everything that's going on through your helmet."
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