The NFL preseason is in full swing. That means over-analyzing every throw, tackle and play call. It also signals a chance for progress — especially in the case of younger players. One of the tools coaching staffs league-wide are using to evaluate and progress players is virtual reality.
Take for example the Indianapolis Colts. With only weeks remaining until the regular season kicks off the health of their star quarterback, Andrew Luck, is still in question. It’s up in the air as to who would be under center if he were to miss time so the team is looking for progress out of their secondary options.
To expedite the learning process the Colts (and Luck) are turning to virtual reality.
We knew Luck wouldn't be back for OTAs. Schott says Luck will experiment with virtual reality during that time — something he's done before
— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) May 9, 2017
Last week during practice, backup quarterback Scott Tolzien wore a tiny camera on his helmet to capture video. This provided footage for players to play back through VR headsets. It’s obviously not an exact replication of how the QB will feel inside the pocket, but it’s close enough. More than anything it’s a way to accumulate mental repetitions.
“We’re basically testing it to see if it can give us an advantage,” Tolzien told the Indy Star after the practice.
The Colts aren’t the first team to use VR. Seven NFL teams have partnered with STRIVR, a leader in VR use for performance training. The following video paints a picture of how it can be used by teams:
Another team new to the VR scene is the Chicago Bears. Their stable of quarterbacks will all be playing their first season in Chicago. They have Mike Glennon (free agent signing), Mark Sanchez (free agent signing) and Mitchell Trubisky (2nd overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft).
Three new arms means no amount of practice is too much.
“I’m really surprised what that technology has allowed us to do,” said the rookie, Trubisky, to the Chicago Tribune. “Especially calling plays in the huddle — I call the play, go out and practice it, and Coach can see on the screen where my eyes are going. So it has helped me with progression and timing without actually going onto the field and having to do it.”
The last part that Trubisky mentioned is the most important. It’s a way to learn what is more-than-likely a complex offense without risking injury. Given the success the North Carolina-product saw in his first preseason action (18/25, 125 yards & 1 touchdown) I’d say the virtual reps aren’t hurting.
If your favorite team isn’t using VR then they might be falling behind.