Today in sports: The iPad comes to the NFL locker room, the problem with the NFL's concussion policy, and a Red Sox pitcher says he only drank beer in the clubhouse to help the team.
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens have both started giving players iPads with the team's playbook as a preloaded application. It's a more convenient than having to lug a 700-page playbook back and forth from meeting rooms, and also allows players to watch game tape on tablets. (Right now, the standard is for the team's video department to burn each player a DVD for takehome study.) In typical NFL fashion, the teams also like the fact they can guard their secrets more closely. "If an incorrect password is entered three times, the app destroys the data on the computer" and Tampa's front office "has access to the data on its iPads and can remotely destroy information on a device" when a player gets cut. Both teams developed their own playbook applications for the iPad in-house. Both clubs designed the application to "automatically update as coaches adjust strategies throughout the season" and plays are added or removed from the gameplan. The iPads also serve as a datebook for players, automatically alerting them to changes in the practice schedule and what they need to be eating on a given day. The next logical step is for coaches to start using tablets rather than their laminated play-calling sheets that look like giant menus. Currently the league doesn't allow "any type of computer" on the sidelines, but the rule subject to review in the offseason. If It should be noted that the tablets won't make say, a page from Bill Walsh's 1985 49ers playbook, read like it's written in something other than Greek for those of us who don't speak football. [The New York Times]
- All of the problems with the NFL's current concussion policy were on display in the third quarter of Sunday's Eagles-Redskins game, when Eagles quarterback was allowed to reenter the game a few plays after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Redskins safety LaRon Landry. A clearly disoriented Vick had to be helped off the turf by his teammates, prompting Fox color commentator Brian Billick to remark that the quarterback was being propped up "like a punch drunk boxer." Despite his history of concussions and a new league mandate prohibiting any player diagnosed with a concussion from reentering a game, he was back after missing just one offensive possession. He probably said he was fine to reenter the gamebut "players who are concussed are in no position to be making this kind of decision, which is why medical professionals should be making the 'go or no go' decision," writes Sports Illustrated medical columnist Will Carroll. The trouble is, team doctors are employees of the club and telling a coach you're ruling a star player out is a big ask. That leads to a situation like what happened with Vick, where an obvious head injury was officially classified as a case of the quarterback having something in his eye. The easy answer, argues Carroll, is to put an independent doctor on every sideline and have him make the call about whether a player can return. [Sports Illustrated]
- Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester confirmed that he and other the starting pitchers drank beer in the clubhouse during the 2011 season, but dismissed the notion that that made them bad teammates. It was a ninth-inning rally beer," Lester explained. He also confirmed pitcher ate fried chicken during games, but added the team only "ordered chicken from Popeye's like once a month" and that it was "not the reason we lost." Somehow, we doubt shell-shocked Red Sox fans will be comforted by the fact their team's starters only occasionally ate fried chicken and strictly drank rally beers. [Boston Globe]
- Senators Dick Durbin, Frank Lautenberg, Tom Harkin, and Richard Blumenthal signed a letter sent to baseball union head Michael Weiner urging players to agree to ban smokeless tobacco under the terms of the next collective bargaining agreement. Durbin and Lautenberg sent a similar letter to baseball commissioner Bud Selig back in February, who said he'd he'd push for "restrictions on the use of smokeless tobacco at the Major League level comparable to the restrictions in place at the Minor League league and union meet to negotiate a new CBA in December. Weiner said in June that the union would make a "sincere effort" to address the issue during the negotiations. A press release from Durbin's office indicates the senators wants want to ban "the use of all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, on the field, in the dugout, and in the locker rooms at MLB venues," while the letter is more open-ended, urging a ban "at games and on camera at all Major League ballparks in the final contract." The latter phrasing suggests that if players want to chew, they'd have to go into the clubhouse or tunnel to do it. [Chicago Sun-Times]