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September 25, 2014

Surface scores with reigning NFL world champs

It’s hard to believe, but after this week, one quarter of the 2014 NFL season will be in the books.

By now, you’ve probably noticed NFL players and coaches using Microsoft Surface tablets on the sidelines and in the booth during games. To be clear, no, Jimmy Graham isn’t tweeting about his big touchdown catch and no one is checking their fantasy scores or taking a selfie. The Surface is actually playing a critical role on the sideline – and as you’ll see in the new digital spot below, throughout the lives of NFL players and coaches.

When we set out to bring Surface technology to NFL sidelines, we worked with the league’s competition committee to find out what features mattered most to players and coaches when it came to reviewing plays. Speed, organization and clarity were three consistent requested areas of focus for the new system. As the season progresses, we continue to work closely with players and coaches to gather their feedback and ensure that the Surface tablets are meeting their needs and driving greater productivity. Early returns from players and coaches have been positive, and we’ve seen usage of the Surface tablets increase each week, including deeper into games and in crunch time.

“The old viewing system – while functional – couldn’t meet the speed and detail I look for to gain that competitive edge,” said Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. “Every second counts and having Microsoft Surface technology on sidelines allows players and coaches to analyze what our opponents are trying to do in almost real time. Plus, the ability to zoom in on full color photos and really get a look at defensive alignments helps tremendously when trying to make adjustments on the fly.”

“I thought it was really effective,” New York Giants receivers coach Sean Ryan told Newsday. “It’s a good teaching tool. The guys were able to see it, it’s a little bit clearer for them than the old photographs were. I thought it was really good, and the guys seemed to like it.”

“One of the issues forever has been you have these pictures and sometimes in a book, sometimes just loose and you’re kind of rolling through them, you get rid of them,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett told ESPN. “OK, you’re on to the next series. ‘Hey what did they play that last series?’ And you want to go see that. This thing is all kinds of organized for you: Series one, the shot from the side just before the snap, just after the snap, the shot behind just after the snap, just before the snap. It’s all categorized. That’s the first series. Now it’s the second series, so you can refer back and all that.”

When the system was unveiled in August, we outlined how, beginning this season, all 32 NFL teams are now equipped with weather-proofed Surface tablets customized to deal with sun glare and to withstand extreme heat and cold. These units run a proprietary Sideline Viewing System (SVS) App, which delivers crisp, full-color, images of previous plays in near real-time via a secured wireless network operated by the NFL. Each teams’ tablets are identical and are kept under lock and key by the League until just before kickoff. Prior to this season, teams could only print out B&W photos on the sidelines to review plays and make adjustments (the printing process alone could take 25-30 seconds following the end of a play).

And also highlighted in this most recent digital spot are players and coaches using Surface beyond the stadium walls – from trainers tracking player health data, coaches driving video review in meetings and players making the tablet part of their everyday life off the field.

The 2014 season is underway and we hope your team is off to a great start. If they’re not…maybe a bit more study time on the sideline is in order?