In the NFL, there are well-known restrictions on practice time that have been collectively bargained in order to prevent against injury and overuse. But what if players could practice without the risk of tearing up a knee or turning an ankle? What if they could see live reps without ever getting up from their seats inside the team's facility?
Thanks to advancements in virtual reality technology, teams and their players may have an effective practice-time complement in the form of first-person video, and according to the Boston Globe, the Patriots will be one of the first teams to use that kind of footage this summer.
CEO of STRIVR Labs, Derek Belch, a former kicker at Stanford, spoke to Pro Football Talk Live with Mike Florio on NBC Sports Radio recently to discuss his company's product. The Cowboys and 49ers have already stated publicly that they've partnered up with STRIVR, and Belch said two other teams have signed on as well.
You can listen to Belch speak with Florio here, but here's how the technology works: A 360-degree camera will be set up near the quarterback -- or whichever position the coach chooses -- to record video from that player's point of view. Back inside the facility, after practice, players can strap on headsets that see the video taken by the camera. When they turn their heads left and right, they'll see the same images the camera saw and get a chance to watch plays run as if they were standing on the field where the camera was positioned.
The Patriots have dabbled in different types of video-capturing techniques in the past. In training camp last year, small cameras were strapped to the face masks of quarterbacks. Earlier this spring, a drone hovered over one OTA session, presumably to capture video.
Though Belch admitted that some users have experienced nausea while wearing the headsets, this appears to be the most advanced virtual-reality system that is available to teams today. While there are only a few in the league who have been associated with STRIVR to date, it would come as no surprise if that number grew over the course of the season.
It's a copycat league, after all.