Earlier today, Zebra Technologies — the team behind the NFL’s Next Gen Stats — announced that they have renewed their partnership with the Chicago Bears for the 2020 season. They will use their “best-in-class” RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology to track player and ball information for not only all of the Bears’ games, but also for each practice session as well.
“We are proud to work with such an iconic organization as the Chicago Bears. The team has implemented our practice tracking system at Halas Hall to monitor its players’ activities and development as well as analyze their performance throughout the season,” said John Pollard, Vice President, Zebra Sports Business Development, Zebra Technologies. “Bears staff members can access the tracking information to support a new level of informed decision-making in an efficient manner.”
Zebra embeds RFID chips inside of footballs, on players’ shoulder pads, and sewn into the player’s practice apparel to transmit data to system receivers that are positioned around Halas Hall’s practice fields and at Soldier Field.
Metrics captured include: acceleration and deceleration, distance traveled (per play and aggregate), and orientation and proximity to the ball, among other data points.
This information is then used by the Bears to calculate and analyze vast amounts of information about every player for every repetition in practice and every play of a game throughout the course of a season.
The Bears haven’t been forthcoming with a lot of the news and analytics based info that comes out of Halas Hall, but they are pleased with this continued partnership.
“When developing our players and ensuring they reach their optimal performance, it is important we have the best technologies and services available,” said Chicago Bears General Manager, Ryan Pace. “By offering the most accurate and efficient tracking technology, Zebra Technologies adds real value for our sports performance department and organization as a whole.”
Back in 2018 we had a chance to send Josh Sunderbruch to Soldier Field to take in a game with the people from Zebra Technologies, and he learned all about how their cutting edge tracking system can bring a wealth of new data to NFL teams.
Josh picked up so much info that afternoon that he had to break his article into two parts (part 1 and part 2) in order to share all that he discovered. We learned the why behind what they do, how they collect their data, what the data can show teams, and where the technology is headed. If you missed those back then, be sure to check them out now.