As players line up across imaginary lines, eyeballing their opponents, wrapped in armor, capped by helmets, and ready to smash into each other with ferocious abandon, it becomes difficult to imagine that this heathen-esque sport, a staple of American athletic fandom, has been completely revolutionized by touch screens.
Specifically, it is Apple's iPad that has changed the way the NFL handles its mental component.
As Jeff Darlington explains on NFL.com, the process by which information is obtained by players and coaches will never be the same.
Once it took three days to receive a large bag of Betacam SP video tapes to break down footage from the previous week's game. Players like Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway would have surely loved the iPad's capability to receive digital footage from a game, transferred on blazing fast Internet, just hours after his game.
Elway, now the Denver Broncos' vice president in charge of football operations, ordered an iPad 3 for each of his 130 players and coaches this year. The NFL's Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers each had tablet programs in place last season.
Transitioning to the iPad takes more than just the purchase of the devices, Darlington relates. For Elway and the Broncos it meant upgrading the stadium's (particularly the locker room's) Wi-Fi signal and integrated software apps that allow players and coaches to view video and playbooks on their iPads.
And if you think these players would rather just download a time-waster (my personal new-to-me favorite is Bejeweled), consider that some teams, like the Miami Dolphins, have a $10,000 fine in place for downloading unapproved software or even forgetting to bring your iPad to a meeting.
Also in the minds of NFL teams, of course, is security. There is always the danger of loss, copying, sharing -- whether it's an iPad or a giant book with your plays in it. Those situations, largely, cannot be avoided. But, the iPad does retain certain advantages in the security game that paper simply cannot match.
For example, in the case of player transactions, iPads can be remotely erased, even before a player realizes he has been released or traded. Every iPad in the Broncos organization also has the standard four-digit pin to open the device, but also a password for the app itself.
So with the iPads safe and secure, the playbooks condensed from a 5-inch thick mass of paper to a .37-inch iPad weighing 1.44 pounds, and up-to-date information and videos ready within hours of each game, it appears as though the NFL is prime to be paper-free in the very near future.
Is the iPad the perfect playbook solution for the NFL? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!