Alberto Riveron sounds genuinely excited about the NFL’s decision to use Microsoft Surface tablets for referees to watch replay.
That procedure began in earnest with last week’s Hall of Fame game between Dallas and Arizona. The technology worked like a charm, with the one coach’s challenge settled in quick order by referee Jerome Boger and the officiating staff in New York.
“It definitely offers an opportunity after the referee signals there is a review to expedite the process of getting to the video,” Riveron says. “We’re not hurrying the process of reviewing the videos or of the decisions.”
Unlike in the past, the referee no longer will be charged with making that final decision; Riveron and his crew at league headquarters will do so in consultation with the ref.
“The only thing that’s changed about the process, that instead of the final decision being with the referee on the field, it’s now with New York,” he said. “The consultation process, the way we look at the film, the plays we show him, the angles, that hasn’t changed.
“Microsoft has been very sensitive to our needs to get the job done,” Riveron adds. “They worked hard on weather conditions and glare and the like. They have worked hard to make this process work.”
Already, the Surface tablets were being used by coaches and players on the sidelines to download photos of the action. Troy Vincent, who oversees football operations for the league, says the NFL is moving carefully on the use of video by coaches, rather than just photos, during the regular season.
“Some have embraced it, some oppose it,” he says, adding with a laugh, “It’s part of my greatest challenge: when innovation and tradition meet.”
In using the Surface tablets for officiating reviews, two systems will be set up, one at each end of the field, as opposed to the single under-the-hood procedure of the past.
This will be the most visual use of the tablet, but it’s hardly the only one. All 32 teams have been utilizing it for virtually every task.
“Microsoft Surface devices have become ubiquitous on NFL sidelines and in the coaches’ booth,” Microsoft general manager Robert Matthews said in an email.
“Currently, every NFL team is using Microsoft Surface in some capacity throughout their organization — ranging from serving as playbooks to film review being conducted on Surface Hubs, to in-stadium and business operations teams using Microsoft Surface in their front office.
“We have organizations around the league, such as the Buccaneers and Jaguars, fully embracing our technology … as the solution to every technology need a team could have, on and off the field.”
Also for the first time this season, medical personnel on NFL sidelines will have access to Surface devices which will feature the NFL’s “Game Management” system. That app displays key moments in every game and allows for medical data collection and sharing across games.
“The use of Microsoft Surface in this capacity will allow medical personnel to make more informed, time-sensitive decisions about player safety and health on the sidelines,” Matthews notes.
“The Surface devices will never be used to diagnose an injury to a player, rather it will allow each team’s medical staff faster access to player information in order to make the proper diagnosis.”