When the Denver Broncos host the Carolina Panthers to start the 2016-17 NFL season Thursday night, it will mark the third year that the NFL has relied on RFID technology for enhanced statistics and game knowledge.

The NFL will expand its use of RFID this season to track player performance metrics that will be available to all coaching staffs.

But this season things get interesting. Coaching staffs now have the ability to tap into data from games to manage player activity and monitor metrics  including player speed, distance traveled, alignment, acceleration and deceleration. The tracking technology will help teams evolve training, scouting and evaluation through increased knowledge of player performance. Now, if a coaching staff notices that a player’s speed has tailed off considerably, they might consider replacing the player for an offensive series.

In addition, the NFL used Zebra RFID tags in every football during all pre-season games. Previously, they had been used only in special games like the Pro Bowl.

Last year more than 2,500 players wore two RFID tags embedded into each shoulder pad. The tags, the size of a nickel, were capable of being read 15 times a second. The NFL deployed more than 7,500 tags for players, officials, yard markers and pylons. Players were tracked in more than 330 NFL games, an increase from the 130 games tracked during the first season of use in 2014. This year, more than 4.5 billion player coordinates will be measured and transmitted.

“Next Gen Stats is entering its third season, and we continue to enjoy working with Zebra to give fans and teams a deeper look into the game,” says Vishal Shah, Vice President, Digital Media, NFL. “Zebra’s focus on innovation has led to advancements in the whole system, from improved software to smaller devices. For example, these improvements now enable us to track objects beyond players, such as the ball which we are currently testing. We are excited for the 2016 Season and for the tracking technology to help teams evolve training, scouting and evaluation through increased knowledge of player performance as well as to provide ways for our teams and partners to enhance the fan experience.”

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