How Zebra Technologies uses player and ball tracking to evaluate player performance

Zebra tracks 130 players with RFID tags at Senior Bowl practices throughout the week
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 11:02 PM CST
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - NFL coaches and scouts have been in Mobile all week to see players perform in practices, but how do they get the most accurate information on player performance? Well Zebra Technologies has your answer.

Zebra Technologies has been the exclusive player and ball tracking provider of the senior bowl since 2018.

Just like with the NFL, Zebra attaches RFID tags to players’ shoulder pads that transmit real-time location data to a series of receivers around a practice facility or stadium.

They gather performance metrics such as speed, distance traveled, orientation and acceleration. Specialized RFID-tagged footballs capture passing and kicking information data, including velocity, rotation, distance and height.

Zebra tracks more than 130 players during Senior Bowl practices and the game itself.

Zebra compiles and analyzes daily summary reports from practices and the game, which are distributed to NFL teams’ scouting and coaching staffs, which are used in their player evaluation processes leading up to the NFL combine and NFL Draft.

Business Development and Sales Lead for Zebra Technologies, Adam Petrus breaks it down.

“We are a global leader in inventory management and asset tracking. so, we took the technology that we were applying to the world of logistics, transportation, retail, quick-serve restaurants, and then sports and entertainment. We applied that to the sports world. We were already tracking assets for large box corporations and logistics companies doing what we call real time location solutions.”

Zebra is currently in its ninth year as the official on-field player-tracking provider for the NFL, powering the league’s Next Gen stats platform.

Through the partnership, Zebra tracks every ball and player on every team, for every game, every week of the NFL season.

This information is then utilized by the NFL to calculate vast amounts of information, commonly known as Next Gen stats.

The Next Gen stats data is used to enhance the fan experience both at home as well as in-stadium.

Since the inception of its NFL partnership, Zebra has tracked over 3,000 players across more than 150,000 plays.

“By the time you have the quarterback release the football ball we’re able to track that football during its spin and we’re capturing the velocity, the arm speed, the initial speed, and then the speed of the flight of the duration of the pass and then ultimately the revolutions, so when we talk about that a quarterback can really spin it, you know, we’re really looking at the overall arm strength and then the revolutions per minute.”

There is a vast amount of information available that Zebra technologies provides for NFL coaches and scouts as they evaluate these players throughout the week.


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