It was the morning after the Washington Redskins‘ preseason opener at the Buffalo Bills, and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander didn’t have to go to the team’s practice facility to review his game performance. He could do that in his basement, or over a bowl of cereal.
“I was able to wake up, watch the film, what I did wrong and already had an idea what I was going to hear from the coaches or things I needed to work on before I even touched the facility,” he said.
That’s because of the Redskins‘ implementation of iPad playbooks and video apps, a trend in the NFL that has started to make the paper playbook a thing of the past.
“It’s way more efficient than having a huge playbook to carry around, it’s way easier to get from play to play. You can search, you can find plays. We can put all our film on the iPad. Guys can watch film wherever they’re at. It’s the new game of football.”
At least 29 NFL teams use iPads in some way, and the Redskins joined that group this training camp. Each player was issued one of the devices with a case featuring his jersey number, a playbook app and the Hudl video app installed.
There is no chance to watch movies or play Angry Birds, just the opportunity to study every aspect of football, 24/7.
“I look at it as someone working at a 9-to-5 job and having a work computer, so to speak: You’re not allowed to check personal email and stuff,” safety Madieu Williams said. “It’s no different for us; we’re not allowed to use it for any purposes other than studying and watching video and things like that.”
But players voiced widespread support for the iPad playbooks, which make life and learning easier despite some hiccups along the way.
Playbooks are as central to football as it gets, no matter the level. Scripting plays on paper and handing out giant books was just the natural way for coaches to disseminate information and for players to soak up knowledge.
Laptops have been around, but Apple’s introduction of the iPad in 2010 changed the game. At a shade more than 1 pound, an iPad is sleek and light enough to carry just about anywhere.
“Basically, that device is a one-stop shop for everything. You can have your playbook, you can have your videos, you can have your calendar, you can have everything,” said Chad Q. Brown, business director for DragonFly Athletics, which supplies playbook apps to seven NFL teams. (The Redskins are not one of the seven.)
“The teams being in the NFL and being proactive, a couple teams took that initiative,” Mr. Brown said. “And in that league, in any sports league, when someone else does it, it’s an advantage. So some teams got wind that a team was doing iPad playbooks, people did research. They realized how slick and efficient it was.”
Front office executives and coaches didn’t shy away from it, even if they’re not part of the iPad generation, ex-Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian said.