A Zebra RFID tag in an NFL player's shoulder pad
By John Pollard | November 24, 2021

Why NFL Players are Benefitting from RFID Technology

RFID technology is helping the NFL make informed decisions to improve player health and safety.

New Orleans Saints running back (RB) Alvin Kamara gained 119 of his 128 receiving yards after a catch (YAC) in earlier this NFL season, the most YAC by a player in a game this season. That’s 30 YAC over expectation (YACOE). Kamara leads all RB with +211 YACOE since the beginning of last season – 52 more than the next closest RB. That same week, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver (WR) Ja’Marr Chase recorded 76 YAC on his 82-yard TD catch, including +73 YACOE, marking the most YACOE on a single play over the last 4 seasons.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was blitzed on just 1 of his 39 dropbacks (2.6%). He’s now been blitzed on just 10.7% of his dropbacks this season, the lowest rate in the NFL by a wide margin. For comparison, Josh Allen has the 2nd lowest blitz rate faced at 17.2%. Mahomes has thrown 30 of his 33 career interceptions when the defense doesn't blitz.

What makes these stats so impressive (besides the fact that we can collect these types of stats at all)?

They prove both rookie and veteran NFL players are hitting their stride and reaching their prime as the season progresses. But things could change on a dime if players aren’t careful. That’s why the NFL uses data to guide its player health and safety efforts, including leveraging radio frequency identification (RFID) tags embedded in players’ equipment to help inform training and recovery decisions.

RFID Offers Insights to Help Keep Players Safe

Coaches, trainers and the players themselves want to make sure they remain healthy all season long. That can be a challenge for professional athletes who spend their days training for competition. In the NFL, practice intensity can mimic game day, and game days can lead to unpredictable interactions with competitors – and injuries.

Athletes can work with coaches and trainers to strengthen their musculature, improve flexibility, and learn how to safely tackle or fall – if they have a way to track performance and equipment usage. With the data generated by Zebra RFID tags in shoulder pads, footballs and other equipment, coaches, athletic trainers, and engineers can learn more about what is happening when players are on the field.

The NFL detailed exactly how it works in this blog post and video, so I recommend you check it out to learn more about how Zebra Technologies is helping the NFL collect more data than ever before to advance player health and safety.


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John Pollard
John Pollard

John Pollard has held various product marketing/management and business development roles, and provided consulting services in the consumer goods, technology, and sports industries working with some of the most identifiable corporations and influential brands in the world including Ray-Ban, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Oracle Corporation, Microsoft, the NBA, and the NFL.

While at Microsoft, John identified an opportunity to combine his strengths as a marketing executive and interest in technology product innovation with his passion for sports, particularly the game of football. John invented the ICE Player and Team Evaluation platform that was first used by the 2010 Super Bowl Champions New Orleans Saints. Global sports information and technology leader STATS LLC. later acquired the ICE solution, along with the acquisition John was brought in to start and lead a new business unit within STATS called the Sports Solutions Group – a unit tasked with combining innovative technologies, unique information services, subject matter expertise, and new content sources to deliver enhanced value to team and media clients as well as fans and brand sponsors.

During this time, John has become recognized as a visionary and thought-leader in sports statistics, analysis and technology. He is a frequent guest commentator on sport radio shows including SiriusXM’s NFL Channel, and television broadcasts including Bloomberg television’s Fast Money. He is regularly sought for commentary and opinions regarding new sport content concepts, sports information and technology strategies in various industry publications from the New York Times, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, and ESPN. Currently John’s work in sports analytics is being highlighted in an upcoming book about the evolution and use of analytics and technology in sports.

As an industry consultant, John continued to enjoy working closely with team and media clients, including NFL and NCAA coaching staffs and personnel departments, and on-air talent helping them derive insights and knowledge from their various information sources and analytical studies to aid in game planning and strategy, self-scouting, player evaluation, and roster valuation.

Most recently John joined Zebra Sports, a division of Zebra Technologies, the company that is the “Official On-Field Player-Tracking Provider for the NFL”. At Zebra, he serves as Vice President of Business Development for Zebra Sports, leading the company’s team engagement efforts with the NFL, NCAA, as well as other sports around the globe. In addition to his management responsibilities John continues to work directly with league and team personnel including coaching, personnel, and analytics staffs around the NFL and college football helping organizations use statistical, analytical, and player-tracking/performance data and technologies to work more efficiently and support informed decision-making.

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