How QB Helmet Cameras Can Give NFL Teams an Advantage

Marcel Louis JacquesESPN30 June 2023 at 6:00 a.m. ET5 minutes of reading

Keyshawn: Dolphins must ensure Tua’s health at all costs

Keyshawn Johnson believes the Dolphins need to do what they can to protect Tua Tagovailoa.

What is said in an NFL huddle stays in the huddle. Unless, of course, the quarterback is wearing a helmet camera with audio capabilities.

“It’s almost like you’re thinking about the integrity of the cluster,” Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. “Like, do I really want the coaches to hear what I’m saying to the guys?”

Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel and his staff believe Tagovailoa’s desire to keep certain things private is outweighed by the value the information can bring to the coaches, as well as to Miami’s two other, less experienced quarterbacks: recently acquired Mike White and second-year. signal caller Skylar Thompson.

Pittsburgh Steelers second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett also wore a helmet camera this spring as coaches were able to see what their signal caller was seeing and what informed the decisions he made on each play.

“For us, it’s multifaceted,” McDaniel said. “It’s a camera, but it has sound, and I think some of the powerful features of that technology is that you can hear calls. You can collect those calls so players can hear them when they’re studying. Many colleges and universities do not [huddle]meaning, for the first time, you’re taking in information aurally … as opposed to looking on the sidelines for a cue or image.

“It’s also something you can see from his side eye, what he’s looking at. For all quarterbacks, it’s a tool to really help drive certain coach points home and just see what they’re seeing, to be on the same page as the player. .”

Sometimes the footage isn’t exactly bright.

“It’s just hard to see, honestly, through the camera with bodies in your face and stuff like that,” Pickett said. “But there are some things you can take from it, like where I start with my eyes and stuff like that.

“So it’s been good.”

The technology is not new. The Arena Football League had helmet cameras in 2014, and colleges have used them for years. Chicago Bears quarterback Nathan Peterman wore one in college at Pitt and in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans and Las Vegas Raiders.

Kenny Pickett wore a camera on the side of his helmet during OTAs, allowing coaches such as offensive coordinator Matt Canada, right, to see how his quarterback was reading the defense.AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

“I think it was more for the coaches to see where your eyes are at,” Peterman said. “And some of it was also to get a sense of what’s going on in the huddle, for the coaches to see the communication of how it’s going. That’s what I know. [then-Raiders coach Jon] Gruden looked over to see the communication jammed and checks on the line.”

Tagovailoa had fun with the concept on the final day of training camp when he placed an old-fashioned Polaroid camera on his helmet. At least with that helmet cam, he didn’t have to worry about coaches hearing what he said in the huddle.

“Because sometimes you might not like a play,” he said, “and you go into it and you tell the guys how you feel, but you basically tell the guy, ‘Hey, I’m going to skip this progression to come to you so you better be there.’

“But it gives sound to a lot of the new guys so they can listen to the play over and over and over again from whoever is giving the play. Then they can listen to the cadence. That’s something that’s been big this offseason for us , is surgery.”

Pickett joked that he would like to put a camera on safety Minkah Fitzpatrick’s helmet to get the perspective of a defensive player, but the Steelers’ coaches are more interested in getting inside the head of their 25-year-old quarterback.

Tua Tagovailoa had some fun on the last day of training camp when he strapped an old-fashioned Polaroid camera to his helmet.Megan Briggs/Getty Images

“Just always looking for any kind of edge, any kind of advantage,” Steelers quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan said during OTAs. “It’s the time of year to do it. It’s the time of year to improve, to lay the foundation, to really set the stage for where we want to go. And it’s just an extra tool that we still feel good about – tune it, try to get a sense of it, because what it does is — it gives a vision of how he sees it.

“It’s not perfect. I mean, it’s not like having an iPhone out there, but it gives perspective, so from a pre-snap standpoint, it gives us a chance to see, ‘OK, hey, you looked here , what did you do can you see? What did the linebackers say or where was this player, what have you got?’ And then we’ve been able to cut it in or overlay it with that, his vision. So it’s just an extra resource, an extra teaching tool… Anything we can do to help that young man take that next step, we’re going to do it.”

ESPN Steelers reporter Brooke Pryor and Bears reporter Courtney Cronin contributed to this story.

Leave a Comment